Intermediate vocabulary: make or do

Learners of English often confuse do and make.

There is a rough guideline, but no hard and fast rule:

  • We often use do when we speak about everyday jobs and tasks: do the shopping; do the dishesdo my homework.
  • We use make when we want to speak about creating something, in particular something which didn’t previously exist: make a cake, make a suggestion, make an offer.

Here are some examples of when to use make or do:

When to use make

Make
make an offer He made me a good offer.
make a mistake I made a mistake. I’m sorry.
make an appointment He made an appointment at the dentist.
make an arrangement We’re just making our holiday arrangements.
make a promise You made me a promise. Keep it!
make a complaint They made a complaint about the noise.
make a decision Managers have to make hard decisions sometimes.
make a telephone call I spent all day making telephone calls.
make a suggestion I made a few suggestions but nobody agreed.
make an excuse Stop making excuses for your laziness.
make a profit Our company made a big profit last year.
make a loss Our company will make a loss this year.
make a mess He dropped the milk and made a mess on the floor.
make a choice I think he made the right choice.
make progress The students are all making good progress.
make money A profit means you have made money.

 

When to use do

Do
do something What are you doing? I’m not doing anything.
do an exam I did five exams and passed all of them.
do homework School kids have to do a lot of homework.
do housework I always do the housework at weekends.
do the shopping I hate doing the shopping in supermarkets.
do an exercise I did all the exercises in my grammar book.
do a job He does his job well.
do the dishes Who’s going to do the dishes after dinner?
do the ironing Her husband never does the ironing.
do someone a favour Do me a favour – lend me some cash.
do good Smoking won’t do you any good.
do harm Violence on TV does a lot of harm, I think.
do your best Always try to do your best.
do damage I crashed and did a lot of damage to my car.
do business Our company does a lot of business in Asia.

 

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