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Common Mistakes with the Verbs MAKE and DO

Common Mistakes with the Verbs MAKE and DO

The only person who never makes mistakes is the person who never does anything.
— Andrea Riserborough

"Make" and "do" are two of the most common verbs in English and two of the most commonly confused. They have similar meanings but they function differently in sentences. This guide will help you learn the difference between the two verbs and how to use them correctly.

Make

We don’t use do when we’re talking about creating, producing or building something, we use make instead. So, we can say,

“I made a cake for you” (NOT... I did a cake for you)

“Chile makes excellent wine.”

“He made me breakfast this morning.”

Generally, we use make when the focus is on the result.

For example,

"What are you making for dinner?" "I’m making pasta."

Here are some more examples:

“I've made a lot of friends in Spain.”

“She needs to make a decision by the end of the day.”

“He makes a big mess when he cooks.”

In all those cases, something was produced: friends, a decision or a mess. So do you see how make focuses on the result of the action, not the action itself?

Do

We use do when we’re talking about performing or executing something. The focus is on the action.

So we can say,

"What are you doing for dinner?" "We’re going to that new restaurant."

“I need to do some shopping today.”

“She does yoga almost every day.”

“Some days, I love doing nothing.”

In all those examples, the main focus is on the activity: going to a restaurant, shopping, doing nothing (relaxing), or doing yoga.

Let’s look at another example. Suppose it’s your friend’s birthday, what do you think is the difference between saying:

“What are you making for your friend’s birthday?”

“What are you doing for your friend’s birthday?”

Remember, these are general guidelines. Sometimes the distinction won’t be clear, so the best way to learn how to use do and make correctly is to practice them regularly.

DO – Common Combinations

Do + work or business

“We’ve done business with them in the past.”

Do + a thing, something, nothing, anything, etc.

“Did you do anything interesting this weekend?”

Do + activities (shopping, hair, sport, exercise, etc.)

“I need to do my hair before we got out.”

Do + your best

“Don’t worry, just try to do your best at the interview."

Do + a favor

“He did me a big favor so I’m very thankful to him.”

Make – Common Combinations

Make + a mistake

“We’ve made a mistake in our calculation.”

Make + a difference

“Changing schools made a big difference to my life."

Make + a change

“They need to make a few changes to the design.”

Make + noise

“The kids are making too much noise.”

Make + money

“He doesn’t make a lot of money at his new job.”

Make + a suggestion

“I made a suggestion but she just ignored me.”

Make + progress

“You’ll make progress if you practice every day.”

Make + an offer

“We’ve made an offer, and we’re waiting for an answer.”

Check out this worksheet I created to help you practice Make and Do. In the worksheet, I’ve included this explanation and I’ve also created exercises and discussion questions to help you practice and remember everything you’ve learned here.

Do you have any questions or requests? Share them in the comments below.

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