Make or Do?

This lesson about when to use the verbs “make” and “do” in English is part of our free intermediate English course. We also have exercises and a speaking activity for this topic.

The verbs “make” and “do” can be confusing for some students. Many languages use one verb in place of these two, so it can be difficult for English learners to know when to use one form and when to use the other.

The best way to learn when to use each of these verbs is by consuming as much English-language media as you can and you’ll soon be accustomed to the use of these verbs in different contexts and will know by intuition whether something sounds right or wrong.

However, here are some general observations about when and how we use these verbs that may be useful. Each are complimented with examples.

When to Use “Make”:

  1. Creating or Producing Something:
    • Use “make” when referring to creating or producing something that didn’t exist before.
    • Examples: make a cake, make a plan, make a dress.
  2. Causing a Reaction or Result:
    • Use “make” when indicating that something causes a reaction or result.
    • Examples: make someone happy, make a difference, make an effort.
  3. Decisions and Plans:
    • Use “make” for decisions, plans, or arrangements.
    • Examples: make a decision, make plans, make a choice.
  4. Certain Expressions and Idioms:
    • Use “make” in specific expressions and idioms.
    • Examples: make a mistake, make money, make friends, make a phone call.

A notable exception is the use of “make” in “make the bed”, which means to tidy the bedsheets, not to construct or fabricate a bed!

When to Use “Do”:

  1. General Activities and Tasks:
    • Use “do” for general activities, tasks, or work.
    • Examples: do homework, do the dishes, do the laundry.
  2. Unspecified Activities:
    • Use “do” when the activity or task is not specified or is general in nature.
    • Examples: do something, do nothing, do anything.
  3. Repetitive Actions:
    • Use “do” for actions that are done regularly or repeatedly.
    • Examples: do exercises, do the shopping, do business.
  4. Housework:
    • Use “do” for most household chores and routine work.
    • Examples: do housework, do chores, do a job, do the washing up – EXCEPTION! We usually say “Make the bed” not “Do the bed”

Do you think that you’ve got it? Check that you have understood by using the interactive tests and activities below