In many languages, make and do are the same word. For example, in French, you only need the word faire, and in Polish, you only need the word robić. This is not the case in English.
So, what's the difference between make and do in English? In general:
1. Make is used when you create or produce something that has a visible result.
2. Do is used when you describe an action or a task.
Generalizing in this way gives us a starting point. There are of course cases which don't fit neatly into these categories, and which I will review in detail below.
For now, let's go step by step.
present: make; past: made; past participle: made; present participle: making
Make is often used to talk about producing food and beverages. For example, you can make breakfast, make lunch, and make dinner. You can make a sandwich, make spaghetti, or make an omelet. You can make a cake, make muffins, or make bread. In all of these cases, there is an element and process of creation. Let's look at some examples:
"Could you make me a coffee? Thanks."
"What are you making? It smells delicious."
"I made chicken noodle soup for lunch."
"My husband made salmon and mashed potatoes for dinner."
"Who made these brownies? They're fantastic!"
"Are you going to buy or make a cake for your birthday?"
"Have a seat at the table. I'll make you a smoothie."
"Do you know how to make sushi?"
"We're out of lemonade." "Don't worry, I can make more." (Reminder: If you are "out of" something, you have no more of it.)
In short, you can use make with many things that require creation and which have a visible result. You can also make a piece of furniture, make a movie, make a craft, or make a work of art. In these cases, you can often substitute "make" with verbs such as "build" or "write." Take a look at these examples:
"My dad and I made a birdhouse."
"Quentin Tarantino made a lot of popular movies in the 1990s and 2000s." ("nineteen-nineties" and "two-thousands")
"I'm trying to make a bookcase for my daughter."
"Michelangelo made countless sculptures."
"She made that album in 2021." ("twenty-twenty-one")
"The city wants to make a new subway line."
"Who made your website?"
"Toyota makes reliable cars."
"Did you make this all by yourself? It's beautiful."
Of course, there are cases which don't fit neatly into these categories, which require a little more thought and understanding of what a person can "create," or which are a little more abstract. These are usually the cases that English learners really want to know about as they progress to intermediate and advanced proficiency in the language. If you are such a learner, please reference the following list and subsequent examples of make collocations:
make a mistake, make an error, make progress, make time, make sense, make noise, make a sound, make money, make a profit, make friends, make enemies, make problems, make trouble, make a decision, make a choice, make an effort, make love, make a wish, make a payment, make a mess, make an offer, make room, make the best of a bad situation, make the most/best of something, make an appointment, make a reservation, make one's bed, make an excuse, make a request, make a suggestion, make a point, make an exception, make plans, make waves, make changes, make a phone call, make an attempt
I always say that language without context is cold language. With that in mind, here are some sentences that use all of the collocations above.
"I only made two mistakes on my history exam."
"We've made a huge error in judgment."
"They're making good progress on the project."
"You should try to make more time for yourself."
"I'm sorry, but this doesn't make any sense to me."
"Who's making noise upstairs?"
"Shh. Don't make a sound."
"How much money did you make last month?"
"Their company didn't make a profit this year."
"Making friends as an adult isn't easy."
"Just focus on your work and be nice. You don't want to make any enemies here."
"You made these problems, so it's your responsibility to fix them."
"They're kids. Of course they're going to make trouble."
"You need to make a decision."
"I made the right choice."
"If you want to succeed, you need to take this seriously and actually make an effort."
"We went back to his apartment and made love."
"There's a shooting star. Make a wish."
"Do I have to pay everything at once, or can I make monthly payments?"
"Who made this mess?"
"They made an offer, but it wasn't good enough for me."
"Make room. We need more space."
"You lost your job and you created your own business. It sounds like you made the best of a bad situation."
"It wasn't a very exciting trip, but I tried to make the most of it." (Meaning, I did what I could to make it as good as possible.)
"Hi. I'd like a haircut. Can I make an appointment for this afternoon, please?"
"Hello. I'd like to make a dinner reservation for 6pm."
"Did you make your bed this morning?"
"Stop making excuses for everything."
"I'd like to make a request."
"Can I make a suggestion?"
"You make a good point."
"Can you make an exception?"
"We haven't made any plans for the weekend."
"The ocean is making a lot of waves this evening."
"If you're tired of feeling this way, you need to make some changes in your life."
"I'll be right back. I just need to make a phone call."
"I made an attempt to call you, but you didn't respond."
I realize this is a lot of information, and you shouldn't expect to learn all of it at once. Use the list and sentences above as reference points, or as English input, and come back to them when you feel like you need to refresh your understanding. For now, let's move on to do.
present: do; past: did; past participle: done; present participle: doing
Do is perhaps the best example of a dynamic English verb. It refers to action--to movement and activity. It's very common to ask questions such as "What did you do?" and "What are you going to do?" (Or "What do you do?" if you're asking about someone's job.) You can do tasks, jobs, chores, and activities. We often do things in or around our homes. In these cases, we complete or "take care of" certain tasks. Most of these examples refer to cleaning, but not all. Take a look:
"Did you do your homework?"
"Could you take out the garbage?" "I've already done it." (Reminder: If you "take something out," you take it and place it outside.)
"Don't forget to do the ironing."
"I need to do the dishes."
"I'm doing the laundry."
"Don't worry. I'll do the washing up."
"Did you vacuum the main floor?" "Yeah, I did the vacuuming yesterday."
"I did the groceries this morning, and now I'm going to do some reading."
"I vacuumed my room." "Did you do the corners?"
"I'm going to clean the kitchen." "Don't forget to do the table and the fridge." (Meaning, "Don't forget to clean the table and the fridge.")
"Are you ready to start cleaning?" "Sure. I'll do the top floor if you'll do the basement."
"Have you done your taxes yet?"
"I need to do some banking on my phone." (Maybe you need to pay a bill or transfer some money.)
Do is also used for specific individual physical practices and martial arts, such as yoga, Pilates, and jiu-jitsu. Basically, you can do exercise. Note the examples below:
"I do yoga three times per week."
"She does Pilates."
"Do you do a lot of exercise?"
"I did aerobics in high school."
"I did karate for a year when I was around 12 years old."
"My uncle does Taiichi."
"She does gymnastics."
"When I go to the gym, I do weightlifting and cardio."
If you go to the gym and use machines, you can go on the machines, but you can also do the machines/exercise stations. For example:
"When I go to the gym, I usually do the treadmill and the rowing machine." (Also possible: "I go on the treadmill and the rowing machine.")
"Which machines do you use at the gym?" "I just do the weight machines. I don't do the bike or the elliptical."
Of course, just like with make, there are some specific collocations which don't fit neatly into the categories above, or which are extensions of the categories. To boost your vocabulary and English proficiency, reference the following list and subsequent examples of do collocations:
do one's work, do one's best, do well, do poorly, do a good job, do a bad job, do good, do the right thing, do the wrong thing, do damage, do business, do a favour, do research, do sports, do nothing, do something, do anything, do everything, do a puzzle, do a crossword, do a test, do an exam, do one's hair, do one's nails, do one's makeup, do an experiment, do more harm than good, do math, do the maximum, do the (bare) minimum, do one's duty, do a presentation
"Don't worry about me. Just do your own work."
"It doesn't matter if you win. Just do your best."
"I did well on my spelling test."
"He did poorly on his driving exam."
"Don't rush. Make sure you do a good job."
"We hired someone to clean our house, but they did a bad job."
"The most important thing in this world is to be good and do good."
"Most people try to do the right thing."
"Sometimes, we do the wrong thing."
"This scandal has done a lot of damage to our company's reputation."
"I'm sorry, but we can't do business together."
"Could you do me a favour?"
"Make sure you do the proper research before you publish this."
"Do you do any kind of sports?"
"I can't believe you just sat there and did nothing."
"We need to do something about this."
"We can't do anything until we have more information."
"Do I have to do everything around here?"
"Do you want to do a puzzle with me?"
"I like to do crossword puzzles." (Or, "I like to do crosswords.")
"We did the test this morning." (You can also "have a test" or "take a test.")
"Have you done all of your exams?" (You can also "have an exam" or "take an exam.")
"I'm almost ready! I just need to do my hair."
"Nice nails! Did you do them by yourself?"
"I haven't done my makeup yet. Give me 15 minutes."
"We've been doing some cool experiments in my chemistry class."
"You want to give your sister $1000 to help her with her problems? I think it will do more harm than good."
"Luke is a great employee. He always does the maximum."
"If you want to do the bare minimum, I'm not going to stop you."
"Can you handle this?" "Of course. We'll do our duty."
"I did my presentation in the afternoon, and it went really well."
And that's it! I hope you have found this article and these examples useful. If you have any questions or feedback about them, please feel free to leave a comment below. Remember, the best thing you can do for yourself when you're learning a new language is to immerse yourself in that language on a regular basis. With that in mind, thank you for immersing yourself in English with me today. I truly appreciate it.
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