How to Use "Faire" and "Rendre" in French

Both Words Can Be Translated as "to Make"

Young woman making bed
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If you're making something and want to say so in French, which verb do you use, faire or rendre? This is more complicated than it may seem, because "to make" can be translated into French in a number of ways. These two verbs are the most common and each has rules governing when and how to use them. 

General Usage

If you're speaking about making something in a very general sense, then you should use faire. For example:

   Je fais un gâteau
I'm making a cake
Fais ton lit
Make your bed
Il a fait une erreur
He made a mistake

The same rule applies when implying causality:

   Cela m'a fait penser
That made me think
Il me fait faire la vaisselle
He's making me do the dishes
"To make" in the sense of producing something is fabriquer, while in the sense of building it's construire. To talk about forcing someone to do something (e.g., Make me!), use obliger or forcer.

Special Cases

Things get a little more complicated if you are describing how something makes you feel. In these cases, you should use faire when it's followed by a noun in French, and rendre when it's followed by an adjective. For example:

   Cela me fait mal
That makes me feel pain. That hurts (me).
Tu me fais honte !
You make me feel so ashamed!
Cette pensée fait peur
That thought makes me scared. It's a frightening thought.

  Cela me rend heureux
That makes me happy.
Le poisson m'a rendu malade
The fish made me sick.
C'est à te rendre fou
It's enough to make/drive you crazy.

There are some exceptions, of course. For the following nouns, you need to use the verb donner:

  donner soif à quelqu'un
to make someone thirsty
donner faim à quelqu'un
to make someone hungry
donner froid à quelqu'un
to make someone (feel) cold
donner chaud à quelqu'un
to make someone (feel) hot
Because all of the above are adjectives in English, you might have a little trouble deciding if the French word is a noun or an adjective. The solution is to think about which French verb it needs to mean "to be." Nouns need avoir (avoir mal, avoir soif) while adjectives need être (être heureux, être malade).

Other Verbs

Many expressions that include "to make" in English are translated by completely different verbs in French:

to make angry fâcher
to make an appointment donner/prendre rendez-vous
to make believe (pretend) faire semblant
to make a decision prendre une décision
to make do se débrouiller
to make friends/enemies se faire des amis/ennemis
to make the grade y arriver
to make (someone) late mettre quelqu'un en retard
to make a meal préparer un répas
to make money gagner de l'argent
to make sure s'assurer, vérifier
to make tired fatiguer
to make up

(invent) inventer, fabriquer
(after a fight) se réconcilier
(with cosmetics) se maquiller