The verbs "make" and "do" are the most widely used verbs of English. Understanding & learning the difference between make and do can be confusing because many languages use a single word for these verbs! Do you do your homework or make your homework? Do you do a cake or make a cake? Although they both imply activity, they function differently in sentences. Generally, "do" is used in non-specific physical tasks and actions, while "make" refers to a specific outcome or a production created in the result of an activity. Let’s discover how and when to use do and make through lots of examples and collocations so that you can understand how they are different.
When to use ‘do’
Do is used as follows:
1. We use “do” to talk about work, jobs, or tasks. Notice, there is no production as the result of the activity.
- Have you done shopping?
- I should start doing exercises now because I gained weight.
- I wouldn't like to do that job.
2. We use “do” to describe activities without being specific. In these cases, we normally use words like things, something, nothing, anything, everything, etc.
- He does everything for his mother.
- She's doing nothing at the moment.
- I am bored. Let’s do something.
3. We use “do” to replace a verb when the meaning is clear or obvious.
This is more common in informal spoken English:
- I am not ready. I have to do my hair. (do = brush or comb)
- Have you done the dishes yet? (done = washed)
- I'll do the kitchen if you do the bathroom (do = clean)
- (“do” is clearly replacing “brush”)
Here are many word groups that are most commonly used with 'do'.
- do the housework
After I got home from the office, I was too tired to do the housework.
- do the laundry
I really need to do the laundry – I don’t have any clean clothes left!
Notice: make the bed = putting blankets, sheets, and pillows in the correct place so that the bed looks nice and not messy.
- do business
We do business with clients in fifteen countries.
- do a good/great/terrible job
She did a good job organizing the party.
(in this expression, “job” doesn’t necessarily refer to work. It simply means the person did something well)
- do a report
I’m doing a report on the history of American foreign policy.
(you can also say “writing a report”)
- do a course
We’re doing a course at the local university.
(you can also say “taking a course”)
- do well
I think I did pretty well in the interview.
- do badly
Everyone did badly on the test – the highest grade was 68.
- do good
The non-profit organization has done a lot of good in the community.
- do the right thing
When I found someone’s wallet on the sidewalk, I turned it into the police because I wanted to do the right thing.
When to use ‘make’
We use to make when we create or build something.
- She made a cup of tea in the early morning.
- Did you really make that dress?
- I have to make dinner for guests.
We use make to show the origin of a product or the materials.
- His wedding ring is made of gold.
- The house was made of adobe.
- Wine is made from grapes.
We also use make for producing an action or reaction:
- Onions make your eyes water.
- You make me happy.
- It’s not my fault. My brother made me do it!
You make before certain nouns about plans and decisions:
- He has made arrangements to finish work early.
- They're making plans for the weekend.
- You need to make a decision right now.
We use 'make' with nouns about speaking and certain sounds:
- She made a good comment on my project.
- Everyone is asleep so don't make any noise.
- Could I use your phone to make a call?
Here are many word groups that are most commonly used with 'make'.
- make breakfast/lunch/dinner
I’m making dinner – it’ll be ready in about ten minutes.
- make a sandwich
Could you make me a turkey sandwich?
- make a reservation
I’ve made a reservation for 7:30 at our favorite restaurant.
- make money
I enjoy my job, but I don’t make very much money.
- make a fortune
He made a fortune after his book hit #1 on the bestseller list.
- make friends
It’s hard to make friends when you move to a big city.
- make fun of someone (= tease / mock someone)
The other kids made fun of Jimmy when he got glasses, calling him “four eyes.”
- make up (= resolve a problem in a relationship)
Karen and Jennifer made up after the big fight they had last week.
- make a joke
He made a joke, but it wasn’t very funny and no one laughed.
- make a point
Dana made some good points during the meeting; I think we should consider her ideas.
- make a bet
I made a bet with Peter to see who could do more push-ups.
- make a complaint
We made a complaint with our internet provider about their terrible service, but we still haven’t heard back from them.
- make a confession
I need to make a confession: I was the one who ate the last piece of cake.
- make a prediction
It’s difficult to make any predictions about the future of the economy.
- make an excuse
When I asked him if he’d finished the work, he started making excuses about how he was too busy.
- make a promise
I made a promise to help her whenever she needs it.
(you can also say, “I promised to help her whenever she needs it.”)
Notice: Don’t say “make a question.” The correct phrase is “ask a question.”
- make a decision/choice
I’ve made my decision – I’m going to go to New York University, not Boston University.
- make a mistake
You made a few mistakes in your calculations – the correct total is $5430, not $4530.
- make progress
My students are making good progress. Their spoken English is improving a lot.
- make up your mind (= decide)
Should I buy a desktop or a laptop computer? I can’t make up my mind.
- make a discovery
Scientists have made an important discovery in the area of genetics.
- make a difference
Getting eight hours of sleep makes a big difference in my day. I have more energy!
- make an exception
Normally the teacher doesn’t accept late homework, but she made an exception for me because my backpack was stolen with my homework inside it
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