I came across sentences like this a number of times, and every time this very question I am asking now came to mind. Now, here goes...

Example: Let's say in an elementary physics book you are taught how to make a siphon, and then the last sentence goes like this sentence given below. For those eager to know what siphon is, please don't bother, answer the question at hand ;-)

... and then you can make your own siphon

Does this sentence mean something like this?

... then you can make a siphon which will be your own

To me it sounds silly and I don't think this is what the sentence means anyway. What I understand from the sentence is something more like this

... and then you can make a siphon on your own

Meaning that you have learned how to make a siphon and you can now make a siphon by yourself. It does not say anything about who will possess the siphon you make once you make it. This is the sense I take from sentences like this. My question is am I right to take this meaning, or the first meaning is to be understood? Thank you.

2 Answers 2


Yes. This:

… and then you can make your own siphon

literally means this:

… then you can make a siphon which will be your own

And it suggests very strongly that you will make the siphon by yourself—in other words, that you will make the siphon on your own. It really just means the same as:

… and then you can make a siphon.

Here's what's going on.

"Your own X" means the same as "Your X"; the word "own" just adds emphasis. For example, if you save enough money, you could own your own car—as opposed to driving a company car, using taxis, etc.

To do an activity on your own means to do the activity by yourself, or at least without the usual kind of supervision or guidance. There's no noun after "own". For example, you can learn English on your own instead of taking a class. "On your own" is different from "your own X".

When you "make your own X", the literal meaning is that you make an X, which naturally is your X. Whatever you make, normally it belongs to you, since you made it. And since you made it, you probably made it by yourself. So, "your own" is redundant. The extra phrase "your own" emphasizes you, separate from other people. This emphasis on you suggests strongly that you will make the object using amateur methods, as opposed to purchasing it from a manufacturer or hiring a professional to make it for you.

"Make your own siphon" is slightly playful, since (I think) most siphons are made from whatever materials are at hand, not bought from manufacturers. Normally, people say "make your own X" when talking about how to make something that's usually made in factories. For example, here is a book titled Make Your Own Electric Guitar. Since electric guitars are normally made only by professionals, the title of the book clearly means that it provides instructions for an amateur to make an electric guitar.

  • +1 Nice! But I have one more point to be clear about, though I am not sure whether you will get the idea that is bugging in my head ;-) You said … and then you can make your own siphon literally means the same thing as … then you can make a siphon which will be your own. Now my point is: after teaching how to make a siphon, what is the need for saying ... you can make a siphon which will be your own. please read the next comment Mar 23, 2015 at 7:12
  • The sense of the part in bold (whether it will be mine or not) has nothing to do with the teaching of making siphon, yet the one who taught is saying that. Likewise goes to you can build your own X, the title of the book you named, etc wherever the same structure is used. Doesn't it kind of imply that you can make your own X does not mean the same as you can make an X which will be your own? Hope I could make it clear Mar 23, 2015 at 7:12
  • 2
    @Suhail What's happening is a little strange. The literal meaning of "make your own X" is just that you will make it and it will be yours, the same as "make an X". But the emphasis provided by "your own" strongly suggests that you will make the X using amateur methods, on your own. "Make your own X" is just an idiom. It doesn't quite make literal sense. I'll try to edit the answer to clarify when I get some more time.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Mar 23, 2015 at 8:47
  • The meanings overlap. They may mean the same thing, but they do not have to. With "making on your own" the end result may not belong to you. "Make your own" indicates ownership of the result. They have a large degree of overlap in meaning, i.e. they could be used interchangeably. The original question asks "which meaning", when both interpretations are possible and correct. An example of divergence, using "on your own", might be in a school, where all the materials belonged to the school. The end result would not be the property of the maker, but the maker learned the skill of making.
    – Mark G B
    Nov 8, 2015 at 19:08

Make your own = do it so you have one for yourself

make on your own=do it without help from someone.

On your own means "of one's own volition, without help or urging from someone".

Did someone urge you to spray-paint the west wall of the building with graffiti?
--No, I did it on my own.

One can also say I did it all on my own.

  • 4
    +1 No doubt you're right. I'd like to add just this: it might be helpful (for the OP) to understand make your own siphon as make [your own siphon] (i.e. [your own siphon] is what you make), and make a siphon on your own as make [a siphon] [on your own] (i.e. [on your own] is how you make a siphon). Mar 22, 2015 at 13:35
  • I understand the meaning of make on your own. What I need is "does make your own mean the same thing as make on your own, or not?" Mar 22, 2015 at 17:31

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