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'Make' or 'Do'?

Perfect English Grammar

It can be hard to decide when to use 'make' or 'do' in English. Here's some help.

1: We use 'make' when we create or construct something. For example:
  • She made a cake.
  • I've made us some coffee.
  • Did you really make those trousers?
2: We use 'do' for general activities. In this case, 'do' is often used with 'something', 'nothing', 'anything' or 'everything':
  • What did you do at the weekend?
  • I didn't do anything yesterday.
  • She's fed up with doing everything herself. She needs some help.
  • Are you doing anything interesting during the holidays?
NOTE: 'What do you do?' means 'what's your job?'

3: There are many, many fixed expressions with 'make' and 'do'. Unfortunately, they don't really follow any useful rules, so you have to learn them. Sorry!

Here's a list: (download this list in PDF).

And click here for 'make' or 'do' exercise 1.

30 mph (miles per hour) Many people do more than 30 mph through this town. It's very dangerous.
badly She did very badly on the exam, so she'll have to retake it.
your best Don't worry about getting everything correct. Just do your best.
business It's been a pleasure doing business with you.
chores I have to go home and do some chores this afternoon.
a course John has decided to do a course in computing this autumn.
a crossword She sat on the sofa, doing a crossword and drinking tea.
damage The storm has done a lot of damage to the house.
the dishes / the washing up I really hate doing the dishes. I'm hoping to buy a dishwasher this year.
a drawing The little boy spent hours doing a drawing.
your duty He has to do his duty and look after his elderly parents.
an exam I have to do three exams and write a huge essay this term.
exercise Julie likes doing exercise, especially running.
an exercise The teacher asked us to do a lot of grammar exercises over the holidays
someone a favour My friend did me a huge favour and lent me some money.
the gardening David often spends Sunday afternoons doing gardening.
good She helps homeless people and tries to do good.
you good You should eat your vegetables. They'll do you good!
your hair Allie spends ages doing her hair in the morning.
harm I spilt coffee on my suit and tried to clean it, but I did more harm than good. It looks even worse now!
homework Have you finished doing your homework?
housework Let's do the housework quickly this morning, then we can go out for lunch.
the ironing My mother listens to the radio while she does the ironing.
a job I think the students did a great job with this essay. It's excellent.
the laundry / the washing He did the laundry, cleaned the house, and made dinner.
your nails Jenny likes to do her nails each week.
a painting There was an old man sitting on the bank of the river, doing a painting.
paperwork Does everybody hate doing paperwork?
research I'm doing some research for my thesis at the moment.
the shopping I'll do the shopping tomorrow morning. We need milk, bread, pasta and bananas.
time (= be in prison) He broke into a bank, was caught by the police, and now he's doing time.
well My sister is doing well in her new job.
work Unfortunately, Lucy does a lot of work at the weekends.
your worst I've bought all new winter clothes:– boots, a coat and a very warm hat. Weather, do your worst!

amends I'm so sorry that I upset you. How can I make amends?
an appointment She had toothache, so she made an appointment with the dentist for the following day.
arrangements Okay, so we're going to go on holiday in September. Let's make some arrangements. I'll find a hotel, and you can look at flights.
an attempt I know we might not catch the plane, but let's at least make an attempt to be on time.
believe The children's favourite game is to make believe that they are kings and queens from long ago.
certain I think the café opens at six, but let's make certain. I don't want to be standing in the street waiting!
a change I've made some changes to the document.
a choice Which job are you going to take? You need to make a choice.
a comment My mother made a comment about my shoes.
a complaint The food took so long to arrive that Julie made a complaint to the manager.
a confession I'd like to make a confession. I was the one who ate the last of the chocolate.
a date I'd love to see you soon. How about if we make a date for next week?
a decision I've made my decision. I'm going to go back to university.
a difference Going to the gym has really made a difference to how I feel.
a discovery When John was last in London he made a discovery - a beautiful little café in a quiet street.
an effort You're not trying hard enough! Make an effort!
an error He made several errors on the report, and the boss told him to rewrite it.
your escape The bank robbers took £10,000 from the safe and then made their escape.
an exception Usually the children aren't allowed to watch TV but I made an exception today since the weather was so horrible.
an excuse Why was Lisa late? Did she make an excuse?
a face The child took a bite of the broccoli and made a face.
a fire We put up our tent, made a fire, and had a hot drink.
a fool of yourself You shouldn't sing in front of everyone! You'll make a fool of yourself.
a fortune Lucy made a fortune when she sold her company. Now she doesn't have to work.
friends She loved university and made lots of friends.
fun of The children love to make fun of the teacher,– but only when she's not looking.
a fuss It's okay! I'm fine, it's just a cough. Don't make a fuss!
an impression Jenny certainly made an impression last night! All my friends are asking about her.
a joke The interview was very tense at the beginning, but then John made a joke, and after that it was much more relaxed.
a journey Because of the snow, try not to make any journeys which are not absolutely essential.
a list First, I must make a list of all the things I need to do.
a loss Their business made a loss the first year, but did much better after that.
love The hero and the heroine made love in the film.
a mess What a mess you've made! Can't you tidy up a bit?
a mistake She made so many mistakes in her essay that the teacher couldn't understand it.
money John made a lot of money in his twenties and was able to retire at the age of 35.
a move Look how late it is! Let's make a move.
a noise Please try not to make a noise when you come home, because I'll be asleep.
an observation Could I make an observation? I don't think some of our customers like the new adverts.
an offer She made an offer on a house. She's nervous because she'll find out today if it has been accepted, and she really wants to buy that house.
a payment Hello? I'd like to make a credit card payment, please.
a phone call I'm going to go outside and make a phone call. It's too noisy in here.
plans David is making plans to move to Paris.
a point The professor used lots of examples to make his point.
a prediction The journalist made a prediction about the economy, but in the end it wasn't correct.
a profit His business made a profit from the beginning.
progress Finally, after being stuck in a traffic jam for an hour, we're making some progress! We'll arrive by 8pm.
a promise I must study hard today. I made a promise to my mum that I wouldn't fail any more exams.
a remark John was upset because the boss made a negative remark about his work.
a reservation Could you call the restaurant and make a reservation for tonight?
a scene Susie made a scene in the café when her order was wrong. She shouted at all the staff and demanded to speak to the manager.
a sound Don't make a sound! We need to be completely quiet.
a speech The bride's father often makes a speech at her wedding.
a suggestion Could I make a suggestion? How about going out for dinner?
sure I don't think I left the gate open, but I'm just going to go and make sure.
the bed Could you please make the bed before you leave the house? Otherwise it looks so messy with the duvet and the pillows everywhere.
time (=find time to do something) Everybody's busy, but you need to make time to study. Otherwise you won't be able to get a better job.
trouble That employee is trying to make trouble. He is always telling the boss bad things about his colleagues.
a visit I'll call you this afternoon.– I need to make a visit to my granny this morning.
your mind up Do you want chocolate or strawberry ice cream? Make your mind up quickly!
your way After the film, John made his way to a café, where he had two cups of coffee and some cake.

Download this list in PDF.

Do some exercises!