Do or Make Explained

Young Man Lying on Bed Writing Letter
Do or Make Your Homework?. Mikael Vaisanen/Getty Images

Below you will find do and make explained. As you may know, the two verbs do and make are often confused in English. The meanings are often similar, but there are differences. In general, we do tasks and activities in English. With make something physical is produced. Do is a chore, Make is creating something. 

'Do' for Activities around the House

Use the verb do to express daily activities or jobs.

Notice that these are usually activities that produce no physical object.

  • do homework - I usually do my homework after dinner.
  • do housework - Both my mother and father do the housework. 
  • do the ironing - I like to do the ironing while I watch TV.
  • do the dishes - It's my job to do the dishes after dinner every evening.
  • do a job - Tom does a few jobs around the house. 

'Do' for General Ideas

Use the verb do when speaking about things in general. In other words, when we do not exactly name an activity. This form is often used with the words 'something, nothing, anything, everything, etc.'

  • Do something/anything - I'm not doing anything today.
  • Do everything for someone - He does everything for his mother.
  • Do nothing - She's doing nothing at the moment.

Important Expressions with 'Do'

There are a number of standard expressions that take the verb do. These are standard collocations (verb + noun combinations) that are used in English.

  • do one's best - They did their best last weekend.
  • do good - A trip in the country will do you good. 
  • do harm - Smoking does harm to your health. 
  • do a favor  - Can you do me a favor?
  • do business - We do business in countries around the world. 

'Make' for Constructing, Building, Creating

Use make to express an activity that creates something that you can touch.

  • make food - Let's make hamburgers this evening.
  • make a cup of/some  tea/coffee - I made a cup of tea. Would you like some?
  • make a mess - Look at the mess you made!

'Make' with Money

It's common to use make with expressions related to money

  • make money - Jennifer makes a lot of money at her job.
  • make a profit - She made a huge profit off the last deal.
  • make a deal - We made a two-year deal.
  • make a fortune - I think he'll make a fortune. He's really smart.

Important Expressions with 'Make'

There are a number of standard expressions that take the verb make. In a number of cases the verb do seems more appropriate. These are standard collocations (verb + noun combinations) that are used in English.

  • make plans - I've made plans for the weekend.
  • make an exception - I'll make an exception to the rule for you.
  • make arrangements - We've made arrangements for next week.
  • make a telephone call Let me make a telephone call.
  • make a decision - I need you to make a decision by Monday.
  • make a mistake - Susan made a mistake on the report. 
  • make noise - The children are making too much noise. 
  • make an excuse - Tell me the truth. Don't make an excuse. 
  • make an effort - I'd like you to make an effort next time. 

Next, take the quiz testing do or make to check your understanding of expressions used on this page.

  1. Could you please (do / make) your homework, please?
  2. She'd like to take the day off and  (do / make) nothing all day long.
  3. I'll need you to  (do / make) a decision before the end of the day.
  4. Don't worry, you'll  (do / make) no harm if you give peace a chance. 
  5. Businesses primary focus is to  (do / make) a profit for their shareholders.
  6. The children don't  (do / make) much noise. They're very quiet and well-behaved. 
  7. If you ask him, he'll just  (do / make) an excuse and not take any responsibility.
  8. She'll mow the lawn while I (do / make) the dishes, so you can (do / make) your homework!
  9. My uncle Frank will  (do / make) a fortune with his new invention.
  10. I'd like everyone in this class to  (do / make) an effort on their homework this week.
  11. It doesn't matter if you fail the test the first time, just (do / make) your best.
  1. Today, we'll  (do / make) an exception and let you play on our team.
  2. I'm afraid I can't  (do / make) a deal on this car. It's the lowest price.
  3. Would you like me to  (do / make) a cup of tea?
  4. I'll  (do / make) arrangements for the meeting tomorrow.

Answers

  1. do your homework
  2. do nothing
  3. make a decsion
  4. do no harm
  5. make a profit
  6. make noise
  7. make an excuse
  8. do the dishes / do your homework
  9. make a fortune
  10. make an effort
  11. do your best
  12. make an exception
  13. make a deal
  14. make a cup of tea / coffee
  15. make arrangements