It can be hard to decide when to use ‘make’ or ‘do’ in English. Here’s some help.
1: We use ‘make’ when we create or construct something. For example:
- She made a cake.
- I’ve made us some coffee.
- Did you really make those trousers?
2: We use ‘do’ for general activities. In this case, ‘do’ is often used with ‘something’, ‘nothing’, ‘anything’ or ‘everything’:
- What did you do at the weekend?
- I didn’t do anything yesterday.
- She’s fed up with doing everything herself. She needs some help.
- Are you doing anything interesting during the holidays?
NOTE: ‘What do you do?’ means ‘what’s your job?’
3: There are many, many fixed expressions with ‘make’ and ‘do’. Unfortunately, they don’t really follow any useful rules, so you have to learn them. Sorry!
|30 mph (miles per hour)||Many people do more than 30 mph through this town. |
It’s very dangerous.
|badly||She did very badly on the exam, so she’ll have to retake|
|your best||Don’t worry about getting everything correct. Just do |
|business||It’s been a pleasure doing business with you.|
|chores||I have to go home and do some chores this afternoon.|
|a course||John has decided to do a course in computing this |
|a crossword||She sat on the sofa, doing a crossword and drinking tea.|
|damage||The storm has done a lot of damage to the house.|
|the dishes / |
the washing up
|I really hate doing the dishes. I’m hoping to buy a |
dishwasher this year.
|a drawing||The little boy spent hours doing a drawing.|
|your duty||He has to do his duty and look after his elderly parents.|
|an exam||I have to do three exams and write a huge essay this |
|exercise||Julie likes doing exercise, especially running.|
|an exercise||The teacher asked us to do a lot of grammar exercises |
over the holidays
|someone a |
|My friend did me a huge favour and lent me some |
|David often spends Sunday afternoons doing gardening.|
|good||She helps homeless people and tries to do good.|
|you good||You should eat your vegetables. They’ll do you good!|
|your hair||Allie spends ages doing her hair in the morning.|
|harm||I spilt coffee on my suit and tried to clean it, but I did |
more harm than good. It looks even worse now!
|homework||Have you finished doing your homework?|
|housework||Let’s do the housework quickly this morning, then we |
can go out for lunch.
|the ironing||My mother listens to the radio while she does the |
|a job||I think the students did a great job with this essay. It’s |
|the laundry / |
|He did the laundry, cleaned the house, and made dinner.|
|your nails||Jenny likes to do her nails each week.|
|a painting||There was an old man sitting on the bank of the river, |
doing a painting.
|paperwork||Does everybody hate doing paperwork?|
|research||I’m doing some research for my thesis at the moment.|
|the shopping||I’ll do the shopping tomorrow morning. We need milk, |
bread, pasta and bananas.
|time (= be in prison)||He broke into a bank, was caught by the police, and now he’s doing time.|
|well||My sister is doing well in her new job.|
|work||Unfortunately, Lucy does a lot of work at the weekends.|
|your worst||I’ve bought all new winter clothes:– boots, a coat and |
a very warm hat. Weather, do your worst!
|amends||I’m so sorry that I upset you. How can I make amends?|
|She had toothache, so she made an appointment with the dentist for the following day.|
|arrangements||Okay, so we’re going to go on holiday in September. Let’s make some arrangements. I’ll find a hotel, and you can |
look at flights.
|an attempt||I know we might not catch the plane, but let’s at least |
make an attempt to be on time.
|believe||The children’s favourite game is to make believe that they are kings and queens from long ago.|
|certain||I think the café opens at six, but let’s make certain. I don’t want to be standing in the street waiting!|
|a change||I’ve made some changes to the document.|
|a choice||Which job are you going to take? You need to make a|
|a comment||My mother made a comment about my shoes.|
|a complaint||The food took so long to arrive that Julie made a |
complaint to the manager.
|a confession||I’d like to make a confession. I was the one who ate the|
last of the chocolate.
|a date||I’d love to see you soon. How about if we make a date for next week?|
|a decision||I’ve made my decision. I’m going to go back to university.|
|a difference||Going to the gym has really made a difference to how I |
|a discovery||When John was last in London he made a discovery – a |
beautiful little café in a quiet street.
|an effort||You’re not trying hard enough! Make an effort!|
|an error||He made several errors on the report, and the boss told |
him to rewrite it.
|your escape||The bank robbers took £10,000 from the safe and then |
made their escape.
|an exception||Usually the children aren’t allowed to watch TV but I |
made an exception today since the weather was so
|an excuse||Why was Lisa late? Did she make an excuse?|
|a face||The child took a bite of the broccoli and made a face.|
|a fire||We put up our tent, made a fire, and had a hot drink.|
|a fool of yourself||You shouldn’t sing in front of everyone! You’ll make a fool of yourself.|
|a fortune||Lucy made a fortune when she sold her company. Now |
she doesn’t have to work.
|friends||She loved university and made lots of friends.|
|fun of||The children love to make fun of the teacher,– but only |
when she’s not looking.
|a fuss||It’s okay! I’m fine, it’s just a cough. Don’t make a fuss!|
|Jenny certainly made an impression last night! All my |
friends are asking about her.
|a joke||The interview was very tense at the beginning, but then|
John made a joke, and after that it was much more
|a journey||Because of the snow, try not to make any journeys which are not absolutely essential.|
|a list||First, I must make a list of all the things I need to do.|
|a loss||Their business made a loss the first year, but did much |
better after that.
|love||The hero and the heroine made love in the film.|
|a mess||What a mess you’ve made! Can’t you tidy up a bit?|
|a mistake||She made so many mistakes in her essay that the teacher couldn’t understand it.|
|money||John made a lot of money in his twenties and was able to retire at the age of 35.|
|a move||Look how late it is! Let’s make a move.|
|a noise||Please try not to make a noise when you come home, |
because I’ll be asleep.
|an observation||Could I make an observation? I don’t think some of our |
customers like the new adverts.
|an offer||She made an offer on a house. She’s nervous because |
she’ll find out today if it has been accepted, and she really
wants to buy that house.
|a payment||Hello? I’d like to make a credit card payment, please.|
|a phone call||I’m going to go outside and make a phone call. It’s too |
noisy in here.
|plans||David is making plans to move to Paris.|
|a point||The professor used lots of examples to make his point.|
|a prediction||The journalist made a prediction about the economy, but in the end it wasn’t correct.|
|a profit||His business made a profit from the beginning.|
|progress||Finally, after being stuck in a traffic jam for an hour, |
we’re making some progress! We’ll arrive by 8pm.
|a promise||I must study hard today. I made a promise to my mum|
that I wouldn’t fail any more exams.
|a remark||John was upset because the boss made a negative remark about his work.|
|a reservation||Could you call the restaurant and make a reservation for tonight?|
|a scene||Susie made a scene in the café when her order was |
wrong. She shouted at all the staff and demanded to
speak to the manager.
|a sound||Don’t make a sound! We need to be completely quiet.|
|a speech||The bride’s father often makes a speech at her wedding.|
|a suggestion||Could I make a suggestion? How about going out for |
|sure||I don’t think I left the gate open, but I’m just going to go |
and make sure.
|the bed||Could you please make the bed before you leave the |
house? Otherwise it looks so messy with the duvet and the pillows everywhere.
time to do something)
|Everybody’s busy, but you need to make time to study. Otherwise you won’t be able to get a better job.|
|trouble||That employee is trying to make trouble. He is always telling the boss bad things about his colleagues.|
|a visit||I’ll call you this afternoon.– I need to make a visit to my |
granny this morning.
|your mind up||Do you want chocolate or strawberry ice cream? Make your mind up quickly!|
|your way||After the film, John made his way to a café, where he had |
two cups of coffee and some cake