Do you do the laundry or make the laundry? Do you do business or make business? What’s the difference between do and make in English?
Many languages use the same word for do and make, so learning the difference in English can be confusing! We’ll talk about how we use each word, then give you lots of examples and expressions so you can understand how they are different.
When Should I Use Do?
1. Do refers to work, and to performing an activity.
Do is all about what happens as a result of your action. Many times when you use do, there is no physical product. You are just performing a task.
Danny, please do your homework.
The homework already exists, Danny just needs to do the work.
I’ll do the shopping tomorrow.
You already know what you want to buy (you made a list), you just need to perform the action of shopping.
Dad is doing some reading.
The book exists, Dad just needs to perform the action of reading it.
2. We can use do when we are talking about another activity, like household chores, when the verb is obvious.
Should I do the dishes now? (wash the dishes)
I’ll do your nails. (polish your nails)
We’ll do the bathroom now. (clean the bathroom)
3. Do can describe an action without saying what the action is. It’s often used with the words nothing, everything, anything, and something.
He’s doing a good job.
You can do better.
Don’t do anything yet.
Expressions With Do
Of course, there are expressions with do that don’t make much sense. You will just have to learn them.
Do business – conduct business
Do time – go to prison
Do someone a favor – someone asks you to do something for them
Do exercise – to exercise, work out
Do a report -write a report
Do a good/bad job – to perform well, or to perform poorly
Do the math – if you examine all the facts, you will understand
It will do you good – this will be a good thing for you
Do damage – cause harm
Do research – perform research
Do the minimum – work as little as possible
Do well – try hard
Do your duty – do what is expected of you
When Should I Use Make?
1. When you make something, it refers to creating, building, or producing something.
Make refers to the activity, and usually produces a physical result. It’s used a lot with preparing food.
Sarah made a cake.
There was no cake before Sarah made it.
Should I make breakfast now?
To prepare a meal that didn’t exist before you made it.
I need to make an appointment to see the dentist.
The appointment was created by you, it did not exist before you made it.
Don’t make such crazy excuses!
You are creating a reason why you did not do something.
I need to go make a call.
There was no call before you picked up the phone and called someone.
2. Make is useful when you talk about relationships.
Lupe made a friend at school.
I know I can make you smile.
Jane and I made up after our argument.
Don’t make fun of other people; it isn’t nice to tease.
3. Make is used a lot to talk about money.
She makes a lot of money.
We made a good deal on the new car.
My business made a good profit last year.
Expressions with Make
Again, sorry! But these are expressions that may not always follow the rules, so you just have to learn them.
Make believe – to pretend
Make a difference – to see that your effort or work is helpful to someone else
Make a mistake – to do something wrong
Make a promise – to promise something to someone
Make time – to save time for doing something that is important to you
Make your bed – to tidy your bed in the morning after you get up
Make change – to return a small amount of money to someone after they have paid a bill
Make sense – to be logical
Make love – to be physically intimate with someone
Make an effort – to try
Make a decision – to decide
Make room – to provide enough space for something
Make clear – to explain something very well
Make a choice – to choose
Make a wish – to wish
Make trouble – to cause trouble
Make a mess – to be very disorganized
Make a payment – to pay a bill
Make an offer – what you will offer to pay for something
Make a suggestion – to offer an idea
And here’s the most confusing expression of all – make do. What on earth does that mean!? When you make do with something, you do your best with what you have.
Sarah can’t afford a new car, so she has to make do with her old one.
Now that you know the difference, you’ll be able to ask someone else to make dinner and do the dishes! Are there other word pairs you know of that are similar, but different? Like improve and increase? Click here to see how these two words are different!