(From The Wrecker by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, Chapter XXII, published 1892)

Passage 334

Old Carthew drew from this source esoteric consolations; he dwelt at length on his own foresight; he produced variations hitherto unheard from the old theme “I told you so,” coupled his son's name with the gallows and the hulks, and spoke of his small handful of college debts as though he must raise money on a mortgage to discharge them.

“I don't think that is fair, sir,” said Norris. “I lived at college exactly as you told me. I am sorry I was sent down, and you have a perfect right to blame me for that; but you have no right to pitch into me about these debts.”

The effect upon a stupid man not unjustly incensed need scarcely be described. For a while Singleton raved.

“I'll tell you what, father,” said Norris at last, “I don't think this is going to do. I think you had better let me take to painting. It's the only thing I take a spark of interest in. I shall never be steady as long as I'm at anything else.”

“When you stand here, sir, to the neck in disgrace,” said the father, “I should have hoped you would have had more good taste than to repeat this levity.”

The hint was taken; the levity was never more obtruded on the father's notice, and Norris was inexorably launched upon a backward voyage.

What do you take "do" to mean in this context? Does the verb "do" refer to another sentence? I think "do" could mean something like "work" there.


It seems this is going to do is equivalent to this will do in this context. Collins has this:

  1. VERB

If you say that something will do or will do you, you mean that there is enough of it or that it is of good enough quality to meet your requirements or to satisfy you.

Anything to create a scene and attract attention will do. [VERB] We need a win–a draw won't do at all. [VERB] 'What would you like to eat?'—'Anything'll do me, Eva.' [VERB noun]

However, to use going to in this wording is obsolete.

  • 4
    do = work out successfully, suffice. We need a bus to take the class to the museum; a small van won't do. Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 12:36
  • 1
    I doubt any current Anglophones would use Stevenson's particular morphological variant today. But Brits (less often Americans) still say This won't do! today, to mean [the current situation, or what is proposed, etc.] is totally unacceptable or unsatisfactory. Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 16:22
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    Today you might say "I don't think this is going to work", or maybe another verb.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jan 9 at 10:44
  • As @FumbleFingers says, "This won't do" is a modern equivalent. It peaked in 1840 but has made a strong comeback since 2000, but "this isn't going to work" is currently twice as common. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Jan 10 at 0:56

1 Answer 1


I think you've answered your own question:

I don't think this is going to do.

It sounds a little formal, but this was written a long time ago. Today, people would probably say:

I don't think this is going to do it.

Your choice of work is an excellent one:

I don't think this is going to work.

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