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Linguapress English Grammar

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Tricky points of English ...

Explaining some of the everyday words in English, that are easy to confuse

The verbs to do and to make

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Make and Do are among the commonest verbs in the English language.
Native English speakers do not mix theProfession: cowboyTests on the environmentm up; but they can cause difficulty for speakers of other languages, as many other languages have a single verb that corresponds to both do and make in English.
Spanish hacer,  French faire, German machen,  Italian fare,  Russian делать,  Portuguese fazer.... they can all mean either do or make in English.  
And to complicate things even more for non-native speakers, the English language also has the expression to make do with  !

Meanings and use of do and make

The fundamental difference between do and make  is that:
expressions with do generally focus on a process
expressions with make focus on the result of a process
  • Do is generally used in expressions that express actions:
    Examples:  do the shopping ,  do your best,  do a competition,  do something very stupid
      In the expression "do the shopping", the focus is on the action, i.e. buying things in shops
  • Make is generally used in expressions which focus on the result, something that is created, acquired or expressed.
    Examples:  make a shopping-list,  make a mistake,  make lunch,  make a lot of noise,  make money
    In the expression "make a shopping list", we are not really interested in the process, but in the result, i.e. the list that exists once it has been written down.
  • Make can also imply cause :  
    Example:   make something happen,
Take care !  It is not always easy to say if the meaning of a verb is focused on the action or the result of the action.


The most significant uses of do in English are
Common English expressions using do
To do a job / the housework / your homework / the washing up / the shopping   etc.
To do something wrong / right.
To do something very quickly / slowly /  clever / stupid / etc.
To do your best / To do well
To do business with someone
There are also some idiomatic uses of do, including a couple of prepositional uses of the verb to do, notably :
That will do meaning That is enough
To do without,  as in There was no bread left, so we had to do without it at dinner.
To do up, as in The house looked very old, but they did it up and now it looks like new.


The verb make usually implies cause or creation. It is used four main ways.
Common English expressions using make
To make breakfast / a cup of tea / a cup of coffee / a sandwich ... etc.
To make a complaint
To make a discovery
To make an effort
To make an enemy
To make an exception
To make an excuse
To make a fortune (= to make lots of money)
To make friends with
To make a move
To make an offer
To make peace
To make a phone call
To make a point
To make progress
To make a resolution
To make a statement
To make a success of something
To make a suggestion
To make up one's mind

Return to Linguapress home page     Check out  more problem words in English


More English study resources from Linguapress
Advanced level reading : a selection
California's water wars
The electric car revolution
Steaming on the Mississippi  with audio
Britain, at any cost ?
The Queen who almost wasn't  with audio
Tea and the British with audio
Woody Guthrie, the Dustbowl baladeer
Crime time basketball
Advanced level short stories:
For Elise  by Pamela Garza with audio
A Suitable Job  by Lindsay Townsend
And lots more:  More advanced reading texts  
Intermediate reading :
Profession : Cowboy
George Washington    with audio
Fast food, OK?   Dialogue with audio
Robin Hood, fact or fiction?  
Black taxis going green 
Sport:  The story of the Derby  with audio
USA: Still looking for gold !  
USA: The story of Coca-Cola 
And more:  More intermediate reading texts  
Selected grammar pages
Online English grammar
Phrasal verbs in English
Word stress in English with audio
Reported questions in English
And some other pages
Language and style 
Word games for EFL/ ESL
Pages for teachers
Texts on the environment

Shopping from Britain ?
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