Monthly Archives: October 2015

You can Make a mistake or you can Do the right thing.

Do and Make are both Phrasal Verbs that are very common in English. They are also very confusing for francophones because French only has one verb for this – FAIRE.

Another reason is that, like all phrasal verbs, make and do are always paired with a particle, so it’s a two- or three-word verb. With make and do, the particle is always a noun.

Make a mistake.
Make a suggestion.
Make a profit.
Make your way.
Do your job.
Do (someone) a favour.
Do a dance.
Do something.

When should you use ‘Make’?

Generally, use ‘make’ when you are actually building or constructing or creating something.

I made a cup of coffee for breakfast.
He made his daughter a bookcase.
Did you make that wonderful bread?
Don’t make a big deal out of it.
You make me crazy!
Did you make this sweater?
Who made this sculpture?

When should you use ‘do’?

We generally use ‘do’ when we talk about an activity. This includes any chores or daily tasks, whether at home or at work.

I have to do the financials.
I have to do the filing.
Did you do your chores?
I didn’t have time to do my exercises.

You should also use ‘do’ with most jobs and activities that end in ‘-ing’ such as do some gardening, do some thinking, do some reading, etc. Remember that this is not the only way to say this. For example, “I did some studying this afternoon” can be stated “I studied this afternoon”.

I did some thinking about your problem.
He did some reading this morning.
She’s going to do some water skiing on vacation.

You should also use ‘do’ when speaking about vague, or indefinite activities. These include speaking in general using ‘-thing’ words such as something, anything, nothing, etc.

Are you going to do anything about it?
Let’s do something this afternoon.
I didn’t do anything wrong!

The thing is, because make and do are phrasal verbs, a lot of the constructions using them are like idioms, so you just have to remember them. Below is a list of some of the really common expressions that use these verbs.

Fixed Expressions with ‘Do’

  • do homework
  • do the dishes
  • do housework
  • do good
  • do harm
  • do your best
  • do a favor
  • do 50 mph
  • do business
  • do your duty
  • do your hair
  • do a deed
  • do penance / time
  • do right / wrong
  • do enough

Fixed Expressions with ‘Make’

  • make an offer
  • make an exception
  • make a mistake
  • make peace / war
  • make love
  • make money / a profit
  • make a phone call
  • make an effort / attempt
  • make (a) noise
  • make a suggestion
  • make a decision
  • make an excuse
  • make progress
  • make arrangements


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