Grammar. 14.12.2010
Grammar Teacher

Do versus MAKE

Автор: Grammar Teacher

"Arguments over grammar and style are often as fierce as those over IBM versus Mac, and as fruitless as Coke versus Pepsi and boxers versus briefs"

Jack Lynch

Let's face it, English can be confusing. A lot of words are similar but with different meanings. It is almost impossible to avoid making mistakes in English, but you might be able to avoid making these ones. In this post you will see many examples of how the two verbs make and do can be used.  You do your hair, but make your bed, do business, but make planes, you do your job, but make others do theirs… and this list seems t be endless…

 So why don’t we start making it clear today?


Do is used to describe an activity that you have to do, often over and over again. For instance, we "do the dishes" and "do the laundry" many times.

 -Do something!
- What shall I do?
- You can do what you like!
- I’d rather do nothing…

We use do to describe indefinite activities, often with what, thing, anything, nothing

- I did a lot of research and I think I did a good job on that report. I did my best anyway.
 - And now? Are you going to do any work today?
 - Yeah. It's time to do the accounts.
 - Poor fellow! I wouldn’t like to do your job.

We use do to talk about duties, jobs or (leisure) activities.

 - I'm going to do some walking. Will you join me?
 - Walking…No, I’d rather do some reading.
 - Stop it! You’re not such a bore, are you?
 - Well, you got it! But only if you promise that we’ll do some bird-watching too.

We use do...... ing structure to talk about activities that take a certain time, or are repeated. Usually there is a determiner (the, my, some ) before the -ing form.


1. Make is used to describe a creative activity or something you choose to do. You choose, for instance, to make plans, make friends, and make decisions. You have choices.

-  Dear, I've made all the arrangements for our trip and I've made a great effort to get it all right.
- Really? Oh, it’s so nice of you, but I’m afraid I'm going to have to make my excuses…I’m not going…
- Oh no, dear, it’s impossible! You can’t do so! It’s not fair!
- It was not an easy decision to make… But that’s what we have. I’m sorry…
- But what about boat I’ve made? What about a beautiful
journey we were going to make?..

We tend to use make when we are talking about constructing, creating or performing something. Why do we say "make dinner" if we have to do it over and over? Perhaps because cooking is seen more as a creative activity than a chore (домашня рутина). But cleaning the table, and cleaning the dishes are just chores so we say "do the table" and "do the dishes." That's also why Americans say "make money" instead of "do money." Making money is seen as both creative and a choice.

2.  We use make somebody/something + adjective/noun to talk about an effect or change.

• The rain made the grass wet.
• It was this movie which made him a star.
• His attitude made him very unpopular with colleagues.

3.  make somebody do something  - to force someone to do something. Note that we use the infinitive without! to:

I made her cry. (not - I made her to cry or I made her crying)

The infinitive must follow the object:

I can't make the television work. (not - I can't make work the television)

But in passive constructions the infinitive with! to is used:

Ram was made to repeat the whole story.

In the song below by Christina Aguilera you can see a lot of such examples:

It makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter


There are also a lot of FIXED EXPRESSIONS which are rather cultural and sometimes less than completely logical. Sometimes Americans will use the verb make in a way that might seem strange, but I urge students to "make a decision", "do your best", and learn some practical collocations using make and do. Here I’d like to list the most frequently used of them.


DO well/badly

 (not) be successful

 Students are under considerable pressure to DO WELL.

 DO harm

 damage, injury, or trouble somebody/something by an event

 Modern farming methods HAVE DONE considerable HARM to the countryside.

 DO your best

 to try as hard as you can to do something:

 If you DO YOUR BEST to explain the problem, I’m sure she'll understand.

 DO something for a living

 To do some job in order to earn money

 What do you DO FOR A LIVING?

 DO your hair/nails/make-up

 to do something that improves your appearance or someone else's appearance:

 It must take her ages to DO HER MAKE-UP in the mornings.


 DO WITH something

 have a connection with something

 The problem has nothing TO DO WITH me.

 DO WITHOUT something

 manage to live without somebody/something

 I can't afford a car so I’ll just have to DO WITHOUT.

 DO somebody OUT OF something  


 cheat somebody

The sales assistant DID me OUT of 5 euros.


   make notes

 write down information

 Did you MAKE NOTES as the lecturer was speaking?

 make an attempt


 She MADE AN ATTEMPT to break the world record.

 make sense

 to have a clear meaning and be easy to understand

 Read this and tell me if it MAKES SENSE.

 make a fool of myself

 do something stupid so that other people laugh at you

 Sorry I MADE SUCH A FOOL OF MYSELF last night. I must have been drunk.

 make a fortune

 work and become rich

 He MADE A FORTUNE out of importing expensive cars.

 make a fuss

 You make a fuss about something if you are dissatisfied with a situation and you complain about it.

 I don't know why you're MAKING SUCH A FUSS about it.

make fun of somebody

 to make unkind, insulting remarks about someone or something

You shouldn't MAKE FUN OF the way people talk.

 make sure

 check that something is certain

 'Did you lock the front door?' 'I think so, but I'd better MAKE SURE.'

 Make an effort

 an attempt to do something

 He MADE THE EFFORT to say something pleasant.

 make a mess of (doing) something

 to do something badly

 I feel I've MADE A REAL MESS of my marriage.

 make up your mind/make your mind up.

 When you think about your options and then select one of them you make your mind up

 He couldn't MAKE UP HIS MIND about what to do with the money.



To make matters worse, one expression has both! “Make do”. It means to manage with what is available, even if it’s not enough: 

• I couldn’t find any cous cous in the store, so I had to make do with rice.
• I can’t afford to buy a new car this year, so I’m going to have to make do with my old Ford for another year.)

Two idiomatic expressions:

When you ask someone what they do, you are asking what their job is.

I asked Anwar what he DOES and he said he works at Dunkin’ Donuts.

When you ask someone what they make or how much they make, you are asking how much money they earn.

How much do you MAKE at the doughnut shop?

By the way, it is very rude to ask an American directly how much they make. You can ask them what they do, but not what they make!


I’m aware of the fact that it’s impossible to cover the whole range of the expressions here, but I hope at least I have drawn your attention to this problematic area of the English language. The rest is for your individual learning:). You’ll MAKE IT!
 And now watch these videos to sum up all you’ve read.


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