Do or Make

Vocabulary | Confusables


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Do or Make are two verbs which cause frequent confusion for students. I have created this English Activation Pack as the ultimate resource to help you learn, practice, and remember how to use these two verbs. This was one of the very first English Activation Packs that I added to the Britlish Library and it is very long and involved. However, it will teach you all you need to know about the two verbs, do and make. If you would like to revise your knowledge of the verbs do and make, do the revision lesson you will find by searching the Britlish Library.

Do or Make

These two verbs are troublesome for most students of English.

There are some rules which you can follow to make their use easier.

1. Completing Tasks

2. General States or Ideas

3. Creating Something Physical

4. Common Expressions

Completing Tasks

We often have tasks to do, such as the ironing, homework, housework, the washing up, the gardening. We also have jobs to do at home and at work.

When we complete these things we have not created anything physical, we have completed a task. We have done something, not made anything.

In these cases, we use the verb do.

Sometimes we can use both do or make with some things, but the meaning is a little different.

I'll make dinner means I will produce something.

I'll do dinner means that, though I will produce something, I am going to complete a task.

General States or Ideas

I'm not doing anything today.

This expresses a general idea of what I am, or in this case, am not doing. We don't normally express a particular thing that we are or are not doing.

When we express general ideas, we use words like anything, something, nothing and everything.

When my father was alive, he did everything for my mother.

Arming rebels does nothing to help the peace process.

Creating Something Physical

When we actually create something that we can see and touch, we normally use the verb make.

I'm making a cake. We can see the finished cake and eat it.

Shall I make coffee? We will see and taste the coffee.

I'll make the bed. We can see a newly made bed ready to sleep in.

Sometimes, a thing can use both the verb do and make, but the meaning is slightly different.

I'll make breakfast this morning - I will produce something you can see, touch and eat.

I'll do breakfast this morning - I will complete the task.

Common Expressions

Both do and make collocate with certain nouns to make common fixed expressions in English.

do my best

do harm

do someone a favour

do business

do good

make good differs from do good...

1. To carry something out successfully: I made good my escape.

2. To fulfil something: He made good on his promise.

3. To compensate; make up for: I'll made good the loss.

4. To succeed at something: I made good as a teacher.

Make makes many more common expressions than do.

make ends meet

make love

make sense

make a noise

make plans

make money

make excuses

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