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When to use Make or Do

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Girls sitting at table studying
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Do and Make are two of the most common verbs in English. They are also two of the most commonly confused verbs in English! There are two main reasons for this:

  • Many languages have only one of these verbs. For example, in Italian 'fare' translates for both 'do' and 'make'.
  • Many of the expressions are fixed expressions such as: make the bed, do homework.

This guide should help you learn the most common uses of both Do and Make in English.

Fixed Expressions with 'Do'

Here are the some of the most common fixed expressions with 'do':

  • do homework
  • do the dishes
  • do housework
  • do good
  • do harm
  • do your best
  • do a favor
  • do 50 mph
  • do business
  • do your duty
  • do your hair
  • do a deed
  • do penance / time
  • do right / wrong
  • do enough

Fixed Expressions with 'Make'

Here are the some of the most common fixed expressions with 'make':

  • make an offer
  • make an exception
  • make a mistake
  • make peace / war
  • make love
  • make money / a profit
  • make a phone call
  • make an effort / attempt
  • make (a) noise
  • make a suggestion
  • make a decision
  • make an excuse
  • make progress
  • make arrangements

General Rules for 'Do'

Use 'do' when speaking about vague, or indefinite activities. These include speaking in general using '-thing' words such as something, anything, nothing, etc.

Examples

Are you going to do anything about it?
Let's do something this afternoon.
I didn't do anything wrong!

Use 'do' for activities. This includes any chores or daily tasks.

Examples

Hurry up and do the dishes
Did you do your chores?
I didn't have time to do my homework

Use 'do' with various jobs and activities ending in '-ing' such as do some gardening, do some thinking, do some painting, etc. This use tends to be informal in nature and can often be stated in a different manner. For example, 'I did some studying this afternoon' can be stated 'I studied this afternoon'.

Examples

I did some thinking about your problem.
He did some reading this morning.
She's going to do some resting on vacation.

General Rules for 'Make'

Generally, use 'make' when actually constructing or creating something (in other words, NOT for activities).

Examples

I made a cup of tea for breakfast.
He made his daughter a rocking horse.
Did you make that wonderful bread?

Once you have studied these general rules and fixed expressions, test your understanding with this 30 question 'do' or 'make' quiz.

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