“Do” and “make” are two similar verbs in English, but they can cause so much confusion among students – sometimes, among teachers too.
When do we use “do”? How about “make”? Can we use them interchangeably?
These are but some of the most pressing questions asked about these words.
As we explore this subject, we will try to eliminate these questions from your mind so that you will enjoy the English language more.
Let’s now get right into it.
What is the difference between “do” and “make”?
What we need to remember is that “do” refers to activities while “make” refers to results. Knowing more about what “do” and “make” collocate with can make things easier. For example, we should say “do business” and not “make business,” but we need to say “make a profit” and not “do a profit.”
“Do” and “Make” are the same but different
Many English expressions can be puzzling ad baffling, especially when they are almost used the same way.
Nouns like “advice” and “tips” or even verbs like “do” and “make” show this very issue.
Although “do” and “make” are similar verbs, you cannot use them interchangeably.
There are words that go well together with “do,” and there are words that go with “make” based on English language conventions.
To make our story short, there are fixed expressions in English for each of these verbs, and you will have to learn them all.
We use “do” for actions, obligations, and repetitive tasks. Meanwhile, we use “make” for creating or producing something and for actions we choose to do.
The distinction can be made clearer by bearing this in mind: while “do” generally refers to the action itself, “make” refers to the result.
There are no hard and set rules on this. Any given guideline would be of help in any way it is stated. Just select the easiest to understand.
Another good tip to have in mind when debunking common language myths is to know the difference between grammar and syntax in detail.
Doing so should help in clearing up the very root of any language-related issue that you could ever have in mind.
So, when do we use “do” vs. “make” ins sentence construction?
Using “do” instead of “make”
“Do” is used when talking about jobs, activities, and tasks, including chores. Take note, though, that they do not produce any physical objects.
Here are a few examples of using “do” in different verb forms:
I should start doing my job now!
She wouldn’t like to do the housework.
“Do” is used to refer to non-specific activities in general. Words such as nothing, anything, something, thing, everything, etc… are normally used.
Don’t just stand and look; do something!
Please hurry up. We’ve got more things to do.
“Do” is used to replace a certain verb when the meaning of that verb is obvious or clear.
Oh, how I hate rehearsals! I need to do my hair again.
After having done the dishes, I still have to do the lawn.
Note that “work a job” is not the same as “do a job” based on the grammatical conventions of English.
Using “make” instead of “do”
Since we’ve tackled how to use “do,” let’s now focus on how to use “make” in more detail to make things crystal clear.
For starters, we use “make” when talking about producing, constructing, or creating something new.
It is also used to indicate the origin of something or the materials that are used to make or produce it.
The world-famous wristwatch Swatch is made in Switzerland.
The first bell that was hung in that belfry was made of pure gold.
“Make” is also commonly used for describing events or circumstances that produce actions or reactions.
I love you so much for the simple reason that you make me happy.
This kind of mushroom will make you sick, so don’t even touch it.
“Make” is a verb typically placed before nouns in statements that talk about plans and decisions.
He made arrangements with education authorities to let him study abroad.
You have no options left. You have to make a decision now!
“Make” is also often used with some nouns used to talk about speaking and creating certain sounds.
Please don’t make any noise because my grandpa is sound asleep.
Never make a promise that you have no intention to fulfill.
At other times, “make” is also used with food, drinks, and meals.
Martha makes the best cup of tea in this town.
Last night I went home early at six o’clock and made dinner.
“Make” can also be used to mean “to force or urge someone to do something.”
The panelists made us stand and wait for hours.
My aunt made me go to bed early, just like Mother used to do.
Collocations with “do” and “make”
As mentioned before, there are fixed words and expressions that go together in a language system. These are called collocations.
Collocations are important, meaningful elements because they show that a natural order within a language exists.
Crucial as they are, collocations are not that easy to master. It takes time as well as vocabulary build-up to use them effortlessly.
To make things less complicated, we have listed the most common expressions that go with “do” and “make” together with some example sentences.
Collocations with “do”
Here’s a list of collocations with the verb “do”:
Do one’s best/worst
Come and do your worst; I’m ready for you anytime.
Do (some/a lot) of work
Unfortunately though, he’s doing a lot of work lately.
Kendra is doing well in her new job.
Do time = to be imprisoned
It’s just fair for him to be doing time in Rikers Island.
Do the shopping
Mitch can do the shopping while everyone is away.
Joe is doing some research for his thesis this weekend.
Do the paperwork
I believe no one loves to do the paperwork.
Do a painting
I found him in the churchyard doing a painting.
Do your nails
Now that you’re suspended, you have more time to do your nails.
Do (something) badly
If ever you do badly in your exams, you have to do it again.
More collocations with “do”
To expand our mental word bank even further, here’s a list of some more expressions that collocate with “do.”
- do business
- do a task
- do a test
- do some washing (up)
- do an activity
- do the cleaning
- do the laundry
- do damage
- do a drawing
- do one’s duty
- do exercise
- do some cooking
- do a job
- do some ironing
- do a crossword puzzle
- do some homework
- do some gardening
- do an examination
- do harm
- do one’s best
- do a favor
- do a report
- do the right thing
Collocations with “make”
Make a discovery
The student scientists have made a new discovery on protons.
Make a call
Did you make a call this morning?
Make a statement
The prime minister has made a public statement on environmental issues.
Make a plan
We should make a plan at least a month before our Eurotrip.
Make a face
Did you just make a face at me, Bailey?
Make a choice
Making a choice between saving two people’s lives is a curse.
Make a list
I’ve already made a list of all the items you should buy later.
Make a point
The journalist has made a point.
Make a fool of one’s self
You’ll make a fool of yourself trying to chase the wrong person.
Make a change
You can make a change by supporting local products.
To expand our mental word bank even further, here’s a list of some more expressions that collocate with “make.”
- make a loss
- make a mess
- make a fortune
- make a comment
- make a living
- make a profit
- Make a fuss
- make a confession
- make a promise
- make a reservation
- make a connection
- make a suggestion
- make a toast
- make a line
- make a cup of coffee
- make a wish
- make someone smile
- make a bet
- make a decision
- make one famous
- make friends
- make a scene
- make something possible
- make fun of someone
- make a complaint
- make a sound
- make progress
- make your mind up
Words that go with both “do” and “make”
If there are certain differences in the usage of “do” and “make,” there are also similarities that add insult to injury.
“Do exercises” vs. “make exercises”
Both “do” and “make” go with the word “exercise,” which can be confusing at times.
Exercise” can either refer to the physical activity of doing warm-ups as well as short quizzes that students answer in class.
The phrase “to do exercises” suggests executing a physical performance, such as in the next example sentence.
Meanwhile, “to make exercises” means to create quizzes that students or trainees can answer as a form of knowledge assessment.
“Do time” vs “make time”
Both “do” and “make” also go with “time.” However, these expressions entail two completely different meanings.
“To do time” means to be put behind bars or imprisoned. We use this expression as a form of euphemism for a socially sensitive issue.
Meanwhile, “to make time” literally means to make oneself available for a certain person or event.
“Do exercises” vs “make exercises” and “do time” vs “make time” are only two of the most annoying expressions in English.
Lest you want to know more, we have also covered the top 12 most common grammar pet peeves that drive people insane in English.
Frequently Asked Questions on “Difference between ‘Do’ and ‘Make’”
Should it be “do” or “make” one’s bed?
The conventionally-correct expression is “to make one’s bed.” This could either mean “to put on the covers on a bare mattress” or “to arrange the beddings and put them in order.” For example, we can say: Rise up and make your bed now!
Do you say “do business” or “make business”?
“Do business” is the correct expression and not “make business.” However, we should also say “make a profit” and not “do profit.” Hence, we should say: Can you do business with us? We should make a good profit by the end of the year.
Is the phrase “make do” correct?
“Make do” is a grammatically correct idiomatic expression in English. It means “to be content or satisfied with what is available” or “to endure scarcity.” For example, we can say: We need additional supplies, or else, we will have to make do with what we got.
Using “make” and “do” properly is tricky because of the fact that these two verbs are all too similar and common at the same time.
They can lure us to believe that they can be used one instead of the other and still be correct.
But, if we know the guidelines and become familiar with the collocations that go with each verb, then everything else will follow.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.