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Which of the following sentences are grammatically correct? Which ones are formal, idiomatic and proper to use in writing an essay?

  • What makes for a good job?
  • What makes a good job?
  • What does make a good job?
  • What does make for a good job?
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    Sentence 1 is definitely preferred idiomatically. I can invent limited circumstances in which each of the other 3 would make sense, but they are quite restricted. "make for" is not a particularly formal idiom but could be used without causing comment in a formal setting. "Contributes to" or "produces" might work better in writing. A completely different sentence structure might be better still. "What are the qualities of a good job?" Nov 6, 2014 at 18:40
  • @JasonPatterson Thank you and Omnidisciplinarianist for your answer. To be frank my question is not answered yet in the sense for which I'm looking. I wonder if these sentences are in "Present simple" tense, which I believe they are, why shouldn't we use an auxiliary verb? Nov 6, 2014 at 19:59
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    You can use one to set the tense, but we don't need an auxiliary verb for linking verbs in the present simple tense, generally speaking. For a clearer example, we say "What is your name?", not "What does be your name?" "To make for" is used in the same sense in your sentence that "to be" is in mine. In fact, we could substitute "is" in place of "makes for" and get a sentence with a very similar meaning. Nov 7, 2014 at 4:41
  • With the word does, I expect it to be emphasized, and used as a follow up. Imagine this: Person 1) "Long hours and uncomfortable environment don't make for a good job." Person 2) "What does make for a good job?"
    – TecBrat
    Jan 19, 2017 at 5:04
  • Most questions require inverting the subject and the verb, so if there isn't an auxiliary do/does/did needs to be inserted (unless the verb is be or for some speakers have). But if the question word is the subject (What here), we do not invert, and do does not need to be inserted.
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 28, 2022 at 22:06

1 Answer 1

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To answer the questions you ask:

  1. Which of the following sentences are grammatically correct? The first two.
  2. Which ones are formal, idiomatic and proper to use in writing an essay? Again, the first two.

However, there's a question that hasn't been asked that should also be answered: "What's the difference between makes and makes for then?"

The phrase makes for has a more specific meaning that the word makes and in this context limits its definition to the following:

  • to help maintain or promote; further
  • to have or produce a particular effect or result

Asking "what makes for a good job?" is asking what causes (as a result) a job to be good and what maintains that goodness. Asking "what makes a good job?" expands the question to encompass its creation, development, composition, and so on.

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