Using the verbs 'do' and 'make'

There are two verbs in the English language that get frequently confused, they are the verbs ‘do’ and ‘make’.

Both of them imply activity but they are used in different ways. As a general rule ‘do’ refers to activities or general tasks that are indefinite or vague whereas ‘make’ relates to an object or specific outcome produced by that activity.

General Ideas

‘Do’ is used when speaking about things in general.

  • He’s doing nothing at the moment.
  • He does everything for his sister.
  • I’m not doing anything today.

Activities

‘Do’ can express daily activities or jobs. As you can see these are usually activities that produce no physical object.

  • I like to do the ironing while listening to music.
  • Both my father and brother do the housework.
  • I usually do my homework after dinner.
  • Sarah does the washing up every day after eating.

Constructing, Building, Creating

‘Make’ indicates an activity that produces something tangible.

  • Look at the mess on the table, clear it up!
  • The agent made a four-year deal.
  • Jane makes a lot of money in her job.
  • The verb “make” is also frequently used in expressions of money; e.g. he made a killing on the stock market.
  • Let’s make some soup this evening.
  • I made a cup of coffee. Would you like a cup?
  • She made a huge profit with her last deal.

Expressions using ‘do’ or ‘make’

Here are some standard expressions using ‘do’ – they are collocations (verb and noun combinations)

  • They do business in countries around the world.
  • A trip to the mountains will do you good.
  • Could you do me a favour?

Here are some for ‘make’ – in quite a few cases ‘do’ seems like it would fit better

  • I need to make a telephone call.
  • Bill made a few mistakes in the exam.
  • I’ll make an exception to the rule for you.
  • I’ve made plans for the summer.

At Monty we help our students with some common difficulties such as using ‘do’ or ‘make’. They can often be confusing so we have published a podcast episode on this topic (take a listen below) and a YouTube video too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2AxGpDRrp0