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  • Do or Make – Which is it?

    Do and make are two English words which are often mixed up. To remember the main difference, think of do as the action of performing something where you don’t create a physical object. Make is used when your action results in creating something that you can see or notice.

    Comparative English grammar chart listing various activities and contexts to explain the correct usage of the verbs 'Do' and 'Make' for B1+ upper-intermediate students.

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    When to use do

    Do is the auxiliary verb used in the present simple to make questions and negatives.

    • What do you want?
    • Do you need anything?
    • He doesn’t have a car.

    We sometimes use do to replace a verb when the meaning of something is clear or obvious or when referring to general activities without being too specific.

    • She doesn’t like it, but I do.
    • I’ve got so much to do.
    • I need to do something about this problem.
    • What can I do to help you?

    In collocations, before nouns, we use do when talking about actions that do not produce any physical result or product, such as work, duties, obligations or repetitive tasks, among other things.

    • You need to do your homework.
    • I need to do a few chores this morning.

    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 a report: He hasn’t done his report
    • Do an assignment: I have a few assignments to do.
    • Do business: I do some business in Japan.
    • Do a good job: You did a really good job.
    • Do a course: I am doing a course.
    • Do an occupation: What do you do?

    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.
    • Do an errand: I have a lot of errands to do.
    • Do chores: I did my chores before I came to school.
    • Do (someone) a favour: Can you do me a favour?
    • BUT make your bed: I’ll make my bed after breakfast.

    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.
    • Do good: It will do you good to get outdoors.
    • Do harm: It won’t do you any harm.
    • Do damage: The storm did a lot of damage to the school.

     Sports, hobbies, and self-care:

    • Do some exercise: I need to do some exercise.
    • Do yoga: Anna does yoga twice a day.
    • Do karate: Bill does karate in the evenings.
    • Do your hair: She is doing her hair right now.
    • Do your nails: Lara did my nails last weekend.

    When to use make

    We use make in collocations referring to the creation, building, or production of something.

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

    Food and drink preparation:

    • Make lunch, dinner, etc.: I’ll make lunch.
    • Make a cake: He made a cake to take to the party.
    • Make a cup of tea: Tim has just made a cup of tea.
    • 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 reservation: I’ve made a reservation for 8:00.
    • 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.
    • Make a mess: Why are you making such a mess?

    Speaking, sounds and relationships:

    • Make a promise: Jess made a promise to her grandmother.
    • Make a phone call: I need to make a phone
    • 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: She made an excuse and left.
    • Make a noise: The neighbours were making a lot of noise.
    • Make a fuss (show annoyance): There’s no need to make such a fuss.
    • Make an apology: James made an apology to his boss.
    • Make a complaint: We made a complaint to the manager.
    • Make friends: She’s made friends quickly at her new school.
    • Make contacts: I made a few contacts at the trade fair.
    • Make fun of someone: It’s not nice to make fun of other people.
    • Make sure (confirm something): I need to make sure he’s okay.


    • Make 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.
    • Make a profit: We hope to make a profit from this venture.
    • Make an offer: He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.