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How to Use Do and Make

Do and Make when used as main verbs it can be confusing to ESL learners. The verb ‘make’ goes with some words and the verb ‘do’ with other words. It can be hard to decide when to use ‘make’ or ‘do’ in English. Here you will learn how to use do and make as main verbs.

How to Use Do and Make


1. We use the verb ‘do’ when someone performs an action, activity or task.

  • 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?

2. Do is often used when referring to work of any kind.

  • Do your work
  • Do homework
  • Do housework
  • Do your job.

3. Do for General Ideas
Use the verb ‘do’ when speaking about things in general. In other words, to describe an action without saying exactly what the action is. This form is often used with the words ‘something, nothing, anything, everything, etc.’

  • I’m not doing anything today.
  • He does everything for his mother.
  • She’s doing nothing.

4. Important Expressions with ‘Do’
There are a number of standard expressions that take the verb ‘do’. The best solution is to try to learn them.

  • Do badly=>   She did very badly on the exam, so she’ll have to retake it.
  • Do business=>   It’s been a pleasure doing business with you.
  • Do good do harm =>    I split coffee on my suit and tried to clean it, but I did more harm than good. It looks even worse now!
  • Do well=>  You have to do well in order to achieve your goals.
  • Do your best=>  They did their best and won the match.
  • Do your hair =>   Ali spends ages doing his hair in the morning.
  • Do your nails=>   Zahra likes to do her nails each week.
  • Do the dishes =>   I really hate doing the dishes.
  • Do damage =>   The storm has done a lot of damage to the house.
  • Do time (= be in prison)   He broke into a bank, was caught by the police, and now he’s doing time.


1. We use the verb ‘make’ for constructing, building or creating.

  • Make a dress
  • make food
  • make a cup of tea/ coffee

2. Make is often used when referring to preparing food of any kind.

  • Make a meal – breakfast / lunch / dinner

3. Note – these activities usually create something that you can touch.

4. Important Expressions with ‘Make’
There are a number of standard expressions that take the verb ‘make’. The best solution is to try to learn them.


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 favorite game is to make believe that they are kings and queens from long ago


I think the cafe 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 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 we make a date for next week?
a decision I’ve made my decision. I’m going to go back to university
a discovery  When John was in London he made a discovery.
 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  You shouldn’t sing in front of everyone! You’ll make a fool of yourself.
 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!
a journey Because of the snow, try not to make any journeys which are not absolutely essential.
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?
an observation Could I make an observation? I don’t think some of our customers like the new adverts.
a profit His business made a profit from the beginning.
a prediction The journalist made a prediction about the economy, but in the end it wasn’t correct
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 reservation

Could you call the restaurant and make a reservation for tonight?
sure I don’t think I left the gate open, but I’m just going to go and make sure
time (find time) Everybody’s busy, but you need to make time to study. Otherwise you won’t be able to get a better job.
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.

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