Monday 29 January 2007

do vs make

It is often difficult to choose between do and make.


Do for general activity
When we talk about a general activity but do not say what it is, we can use do:

  • I want to do something.
  • What are you doing this evening?
  • What can we do?
  • Do it now!

Do for work
We usually use do to talk about work:

  • What do you do? (= What is your job?)
  • Who does your shopping?
  • I don't want to do any work today.
  • I hate doing the washing up.
  • Have you done your homework?

Note that we sometimes use do to replace another more exact verb (but only when the meaning is clear from the situation). This is very informal.

  • do the lawn (cut/mow? sow? the lawn)
  • do my room (tidy? paint? my room)
  • do the car (wash? paint? repair? the car)


Make for construction
Make often expresses the idea of construction or creation:

  • I'll make a cake for Anthony's birthday.
  • This car was made in France.
  • Did you make this table yourself?

Remember that we usually use make for products or goods that are manufactured. That's why you see labels like "Made in Hong Kong" or "Made in the USA" on products that you buy.

Now compare:

  • Do the shopping. (We don't really create anything. We just "do" an activity.)
  • Make a cake. (We really create something.)

In the next example, notice how we use make for creation (the cake) and then use do (for the general activity) even though we're really talking about the same thing:

  • I must make Anthony's cake. I'll do it now.

Expressions with Do and Make

Here are some expressions that you should learn. Notice that as main verbs we use make more often than do:

  • do good
  • do harm
  • do well
  • do badly
  • do a favour
  • do business
  • make an attempt
  • make a bed (usually this means "tidy the bedclothes" but it could mean "manufacture the furniture")
  • make a change/changes
  • make a complaint
  • make a decision
  • make a demand
  • make an effort
  • make an exception
  • make an excuse
  • make a loss
  • make love
  • make a mistake
  • make money
  • make a noise
  • make an offer
  • make peace
  • make a phone call
  • make a profit
  • make a suggestion
  • make war

Do or Make Quiz

1 What do you for a living?
2 Have you your homework already?
3 My husband the grocery shopping.
4 Amber badly on her geography exam.
5 The children a mess in the kitchen.
6 We are having guests tonight, so please your bed.
7 I only one mistake in my English test.
8 I have to ask you to me a favour.
9 Have you and your friend a decision yet?
10 Please excuse me while I a phonecall.

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