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a. These feats have helped her make the most successful woman in American ski racing history.

b. These feats have helped make her the most successful woman in American ski racing history.

Is the sentence (a) grammatically wrong? Then, why?

2 Answers 2

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a. These feats have helped her make the most successful woman in American ski racing history.

This sentence implies that the woman in question created the most successful woman in American ski racing history (so her is NOT the most successful woman in American ski racing history). For example, she is such a good ski instructor that one of her students became the most successful woman in American ski racing history. Even so, if this really was the context you were going for, you don't usually make a person. A better-suited word might be train.

b. These feats have helped make her the most successful woman in American ski racing history.

This is probably what you wanted to say. It means that the woman in question is, herself, the most successful woman in American ski racing history and her feats "made her" that. In other words, her = most successful woman in American ski racing history.

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  • Thanks for your immediate answer. I have one more question. So, you're saying that in the sentence (a), "make" cannot be used instead of "become" as in a sentence like "He will make(=become) a good doctor."?
    – Allan Teps
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 2:47
  • Yes. It's strange, isn't it? :) I'm a bit out of my depth here (not a linguist), but I think the reason why it doesn't work is the direct object (the feats helped her make [object]). If you added a "He will make him a good doctor", this immediately changes the meaning of your sentence. So She will make a good skier. and She will make her a good skier. mean two different things.
    – Hypnoxas
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 3:02
  • Wow, now I got the point. You said you're not a linguist, but you've been a big help to me. Would it be okay if I asked you one more question? How about "These feats have helped her make herself the most ~. history." Does it sound "too superfluous" compared to the sentence (b)?
    – Allan Teps
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 3:21
  • As in most languages (I assume), the goal is to be concise and not use too many unnecessary words. The addition of "make herself" helps make it clear what you mean but as you said, it's quite superfluous when a shorter and much more elegant version is readily available.
    – Hypnoxas
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 4:52
  • I couldn't agree more to what you said about the goal of a language. And I have to say it again; "You've been a great help! THANK YOU!"
    – Allan Teps
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 6:20
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a. These feats have helped her make the most successful woman in American ski racing history.

b. These feats have helped make her the most successful woman in American ski racing history.

Both sentences are grammatically correct but have different meanings.

In A. "She" made the most successful woman. Perhaps "she" is the coach and she "made" a champion skier.

In B. "She" is the most successful woman. She is the most successful skier and the feats are the what qualifies her as the most successful skier.

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