make or do

Let’s do some work!

The words make and do are combined in a lot of common combinations.  For example: “You make dinner and I’ll do the washing up.”

How do we decide which combination to use? Well, there are a few useful rules:

  • Let’s start with do which is often used to focus on performing an activity, especially when speaking about unspecified activities. This sometimes follows the pattern (do + the + -ing): Would you mind doing the cleaning if I do the ironing? Or you could say: I hate doing the housework.

The word do is combined with words like something/anything,  nothing and everything, and likewise you can say  do well/badly.

We also use the word do to talk about work or jobs. So you do your work, business, research, overtime, accounts or a job.

We also use it to talk about general sports activities. So you do exercise, sports, yoga or a workout.

  • Make, on the other hand, is used to talk about production or creative activities, in which we focus on the result rather than doing the activity: Yesterday, I made a picture. Our company makes great products.

We make appointments, arrangements, enquiries, suggestions and decisions.

We also often use make to talk about food, so we say make a sandwich, a cup of coffee, dinner or breakfast.

  • The rules are not always perfect, so there are lot of common expressions with make and do which simply have to be learned. For example, you might knock over your cup of coffee and make a mess. Or you might make an effort and do somebody a special favour.

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Copyright: Rory Braddell 2018