Learn the Difference Between "Do" and "Make"

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Do or Make Your Homework?. Mikael Vaisanen/Getty Images

The verbs "make" and "do" are two of the most common in the English language and two of the most easily confused. Although they both imply activity, they function differently in sentences. Generally speaking, "do" relates to physical tasks and activities that are vague or indefinite, while "make" refers to a specific outcome or object created by that activity. This guide will help you learn the difference between the two verbs.

Activities

Use the verb "do" to express daily activities or jobs. Notice that these are usually activities that produce no physical object.

I usually do my homework after dinner.

Both my mother and father do the housework. 

I like to do the ironing while I watch TV.

Tom does a few jobs around the house. 

General Ideas

"Do" is also used when speaking about things in general. 

I'm not doing anything today.

He does everything for his mother.

She's doing nothing at the moment.

Expressions Using "Do"

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

A trip in the country will do you good. 

Can you do me a favor?

We do business in countries around the world. 

Constructing, Building, Creating

Use the verb "make" to express an activity that creates something tangible.

Let's make hamburgers this evening.

I made a cup of tea. Would you like some?

Look at the mess you made!

The verb "make" is also frequently used in expressions related to money

Jennifer makes a lot of money at her job.

She made a huge profit off the last deal.

We made a two-year deal.

Expressions Using "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.

I've made plans for the weekend.

I'll make an exception to the rule for you.

Let me make a telephone call.

Susan made a mistake on the report. 

Test Your Knowledge

Now that you've learned about using "make" and "do," it's time to review. Use this quiz to test yourself, then check the answers below.

  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.
  12. Today, we'll  (do/make) an exception and let you play on our team.
  13. I'm afraid I can't  (do/make) a deal on this car. It's the lowest price.
  14. Would you like me to  (do/make) a cup of tea?
  15. I'll  (do/make) arrangements for the meeting tomorrow.

    Answers

    1. do your homework
    2. do nothing
    3. make a decision
    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