Do vs make

 
Do and make are two English verbs which are often confused. There are, however, some important differences which can help us choose the right verb.
 

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When to use do

 
We use do in collocations associated with tasks, duties, obligations, and routine or repetitive activities. Do usually refers to the action of performing these activities, while make generally refers to the result.

Do is usually used in collocations referring to the following topics:

Study and work:

  • do homework: I’ll do my homework after dinner.
  • do work: Joe does a lot of work in the evenings.
  • do business: They are doing business in Japan.
  • do an assignment: I did my assignment last weekend.
  • do a course: I am doing a photography course.

Housework and repetitive tasks:

  • do the dishes: I do the dishes every evening.
  • do the laundry: Alice does the laundry when she gets home.
  • do the shopping: I’ll do the shopping after work.
  • do the ironing: Lee is doing the ironing right now.
  • do housework: She does the housework at the weekends.
  • BUT make your bed: I make my bed every morning.

Good or bad actions:

  • do well: He did well in his exams.
  • do badly: I did badly in the race.
  • do something, nothing, etc.: They did something exciting last weekend.
  • do your best: He did his best to pass the exam.
  • do too much: Rita does too much for her children.

 Sports, hobbies, and self-care:

  • do exercise: You should do more exercise.
  • do yoga: Anna does yoga twice a week.
  • do karate, judo, etc. (martial arts): Bill does karate in the evenings.
  • do your hair: I have a shower, I do my hair, and I get dressed.
  • do your nails: Lara did my nails last weekend.

 

When to use make

 
We often use make when we talk about the creation or production in a process. Do usually refers to the action, to the process of doing something, whereas make refers to the result of that action. For example, if you make dinner, the result is pasta.

Make is usually used in collocations referring to the following topics:

Food and drink preparation:

  • make lunch, dinner, etc.: I’ll make lunch soon.
  • make a cake: He made a cake to take to the party.
  • make coffee: Tim makes coffee for his wife every morning.
  • make a sandwich: I made a sandwich to take to work.
  • make a snack: Sid was hungry, so he made a snack.

Arrangements and decisions:

  • make an appointment: I made an appointment to see the doctor.
  • make plans: We are making plans for the weekend.
  • make a list: I made a list of the things I needed to buy.
  • make a choice: Ian had to make a difficult choice.
  • make a decision: It took me a long time to make a decision.
  • make a mistake: I made a mistake in the exam.

Speaking, sounds and relationships:

  • make a promise: Jess made a promise to her grandmother.
  • make a phone call: I need to make a phone call.
  • make a joke: He made a joke about his sister’s new hairstyle.
  • make a suggestion: The teacher made a good suggestion.
  • make an excuse: He made an excuse to his teacher.
  • make a noise: The neighbours were making a lot of noise.
  • make friends: She’s made friends quickly at her new school.

Money:

  • make a lot of money: He makes more money than I do.
  • make $10: Fred makes $10 an hour in his part-time job.
  • make a living: She makes a living as a yoga teacher.