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by Jeremy Butterfield.In Confusable Words, Grammar, Help for authors & editors.17 Comments on “Suffice it to say” or “suffice tosay”?


The issue

The plot renders twists and also turns choose a snake writhing in the desert. To tell would certainly be to spoil, yet suffice to say, writer, director and cast have colluded brilliantly.

You are watching: What does suffice it to say mean

Fraser’s scenes are paintotally boring to watch—suffice it to say, he’s not a grasp of physical comedy.


Take Our Poll

An editor in an online editorial team elevated the question of which variation is correct, and her query elicited more than 80 comments. Many people swore that suffice to say was the correct and also only variation, and that suffice it to say was a “hairy mutant”. People in the various other camp lambasted their enemies, and resorted to dictionaries to prove beyond a doubt that the four-word version was gospel. What is the fact of the matter?

Fast takeawaysBoth creates are in usage (view more information at Frequency below).Suffice it to say is slightly more constant in a British corpus, and a lot even more constant in an Amerideserve to one.Suffice it to say was previously taken into consideration standard, and is still viewed by many kind of civilization as the just correct formulation.However, maybe bereason of its puzzling syntaxation, it is frequently “regularized” to suffice to say.

Below, I look in more detail at the grammar, frequency and also history of this expression, which the Oxford Dictionary Online aptly defines as “Used to indicate that one is saying enough to make one’s meaning clear while withholding somepoint for factors of discretion or brevity.”

On the other hand, the outcomes of the poll embedded in this blog present that the choice with many votes is that both versions are ‘correct’. Which you use is most likely to depend on where you’re from, just how you initially heard or used the expression, and exactly how you parse it, among various other points.

If you enjoy this blog, and find it beneficial, there’s an easy way for you to find out as soon as I blog again. Just authorize up (in the right-hand also column, over the Twitter feed) and you’ll obtain an e-mail to tell you. “Simples!”, as the meerkats say. I shall be blogging routinely about problems of English usage, word histories, and also composing tips. Enjoy!

Syntax

Three points are worth mentioning about suffice it to say. First, the subject of the sentence is the “dummy” or impersonal it. Second, the verb create is subjunctive—the absence of the normal third person singular –s mirrors this, i.e. suffice, fairly than suffices. Third, tbelow is subject-verb invariation.

The expression hence belongs to that exceptionally tiny group of “fossilized” phrases in which the subjunctive is used: God save the Queen! far be it from me to…, Perish the thought! All of them might be rewritten as “Let + topic + verb” i.e. let God conserve the Queen, let it suffice to say, and so on. In particular, far be it from me screens the same subject-verb invariation.

However before, the reality that such subjunctive phrases are rare and also on the fringes of most people’s grammar suggests, I think, that they have challenge analysing the “suffice it to say” develop, and therefore attempt to regularize it to “suffice to say”. The invariation of subject and also verb presents a further block to evaluation.

It has actually likewise come to be clear to me, from conversation of this issue in virtual editorial forums—or fora, if you really, absolutely must—that some world interpret the it as the object of the verb suffice. As an outcome, they refuse it, properly, in so far as they perceive suffice to be intransitive in this use, however erroneously if one analyses the phrase as having subject-verb inversion.

“Suffice to say”, however, while sounding superficially prefer a second perchild imperative—stand also up, wake up, pay attention, etc.—is as anomalous as the four-word develop. Who is being addressed in this imperative?

Current situation

FrequencyThe Oxford English Corpus (OEC) has actually slightly more examples of the string “suffice to say” than of “suffice it to say”: 952:937 (and each occurs much less than once per million words of message.) However, filtering out “suffice to say” as a zero infinitive, i.e. in phrases such as let it suffice to say, it should suffice to say, and so on., reduces its full to well below 900, making it, therefore, less frequent than the much longer form.Though the shorter create is used in all arrays of English, its usage does seem to be specifically noted in Australian English, at leastern in the OEC data.In the Corpus of Conmomentary Amerihave the right to the distribution is extremely different: 376 incidents of the longer variation against 97 for the shorter. It is specifically noticeable that in scholastic creating the longer create occurs in an also better ratio of 6:1.A Google Ngrams comparison of “suffice to say” and “suffice it to say” suggests a decrease in the use of both phrases over the last century, However before, “suffice to say” is frequently the zero infinitive stated formerly, and it would be also time-consuming to compare the frequency of the 2 phrases in information over time. For the duration 1960-2000 (i.e., the latest period extended by Ngrams) “suffice it to say” is the more constant of the 2 strings.Dictionaries

Both the Oxford Online Dictionary and also Macquarie bracket the it: suffice (it) to say, indicating plainly that they accept it as optional. Merriam-Webster Online notes “often supplied through an impersonal it sufficith.

Mark xiv. 41

Tright here is then a sepaprice category through the adhering to rubric:

“Const inf or clausage through, or (formerly) without, anticipatory dummy subject it. Now chiefly in the subjunctive, suffice it, sometimes brief for suffice it to say.”

The initially OED citation of this use is from the Middle English (1390) Confessio Amantis, showing an infinitive as the topic of the verb:

to studie upon the worldes lore Sufficeth now withoute even more.

Tright here is another citation before the Book of Typical Prayer on Publyke Baptisme f. iiii*v (1549) showing a similar infinitive construction.

If the childe be weake, it shall suffice to powre water vpon it.

However, the initially citation for the exact expression “suffice it to say” does not appear till a 1779 edition of the periodical The Mirror:

Suffice it to say, that my parting via the Dervise was exceptionally tender.

An earlier citation (1692), however, has:

It suffices to say, That Xantippus coming to be the manager of affairs, altered extreamly the Carthaginian Army.

See more: Definition Of Live Off The Fat Of The Land, Live Off The Fat Of The Land

In the Corpus of Historical American (COHA), the string “suffice to say” is greatly of the zero infinitive type mentioned above. However before, the earliest citation of it separately is in 1815, in the drama by Edward Hitchcock the Emancipation of Europe, or The Downfevery one of Bonaparte: Marshal Ney, no less, replies to a question from Talleyrand, no less, about just how a battle went:

Oh a lot of murderous! Too horrid to relate. Suffice to say Our troops are overwhelmed in toto.

“Suffice to Say”—a long-forgotten hit

Googling in connection through this topic, I found a 1977 hit by a band dubbed The Yachts. Here are some of the lyrics:

Although the rhyming’s not that warm | It’s fairly a snappy bit tune | I’m sure you’ll favor the chorus also | It’s short and sweet and also to the allude | It also says that I love you | Just after this: Suffice to say you love me | Can’t say that I blame you | Suffice to say I love you too

Clearly, leaving out it was vital on rhythmical grounds. And if you want to relive your on-the-fringes-of-Punk days through this little ditty, below it is: