Do and Make

The difference between do and make can be very difficult for lots of students as in lots of languages there is one verb for both of these English verbs.

There are certain rules for learning the difference, but I think that this just makes things confusing. This is because there are many expressions used with these two verbs.

The one rule that I want to introduce is the following: Make is used for building, creating or constructing. For example:

  • The local brewery makes the best beer.
  • I made it myself.
  • (A local advertisement) We make jewelry using local materials.
  • I like to make my own clothes when I can.

Now, in order to remember the different expressions that use ‘do’ and ‘make,’ let’s take a look at different scenarios. Try and learn these conversations, as learning in context will enable you to use these two verbs more fluently.


Two Women Getting Ready for a Night Out

Do a favor – to help someone with something.
Do your hair – to style your hair.
Do your make up – to put on your make up.
Do your nails – to make your nails look nice and usually to put nail polish on your nails.

A: Could you do me a favor and help me do my hair?

B: Sure.

A:  Thanks. How long do we have? I need to do my make up.

B: We’ve got plenty of time. I also need to do my nails too.

A discussion between the manager of a company and a receptionist

Make arrangements – to make plans for an event or business trip etc.
Make enquiries – to find out more information about something.
Make phone calls – to use the telephone to call people.
Make time – to make sure that you have time to do something.
Do well – to perform well.

A: Have you made the arrangements yet for my trip?

B: I’ve made a few enquiries and I’m going to make a few phone calls this afternoon.

A:  Great. Do you think you can make time tomorrow for our meeting?

B: No problem.

A: Great, you’re doing well, keep it up.

A football manager after a game

Do well – to perform well.
Make mistakes – a similar phrase to make an error.
Make amends – to repair something that you have done (for example, after making a mistake you can make amends).
Make a decision/decisions – to decide.
Make an effort – to try hard to do well.

A: Well done. You did very well out there today. Some of you made a few mistakes but I noticed that you made amends for them, and generally you made the right decisions. There were times when you should have made more of an effort, but generally it was good.

A couple in the kitchen

Make breakfast/lunch/dinner – similar to prepare (prepare is usually used for cold food, i.e. prepare a salad).
Make tea/coffee – the process of preparing tea or coffee.
Make a suggestion – to suggest something.

A: Who’s making dinner tonight?

B: I think it’s your turn.

A: But I made dinner last night. And I made you a cup of tea this morning.

B: But I made lunch.

A: OK, I’ll do it again. I think I’ll make some pasta.

B: Could I make a suggestion?

A: Go on…

B: Make it a little less spicy this time.

Two directors in a meeting

Do business – to engage in a contract or transaction with another company.
Make a mistake – a similar phrase to make errors.
Make a presentation – to present a presentation.
Make a profit/loss – to make money/lose money.
Make a choice – decide between two or more options.

A: Do you think we should do business with that new company?

B: I’m not sure. We made a mistake using that last company and I don’t want it to happen again.

A: Yeah. Maybe we can make a presentation about it and show the others to see what they think.

B: That will help us decide whether we will make a profit or a loss using them, and whether it’s too risky.

A: Either way, we need to make a choice soon.

A conversation between a mother and her teenage son

Make your bed – to reorganize the bedding after sleeping in it.
Make a promise – to promise to do/not do something.
Make a mess – to make a room messy.
Make a fuss – to worry too much over something and overreact.
Do the washing/laundry – to wash the clothes.
Do the ironing – to iron the clothes.
Do the dishes – to wash up the plates, pots etc. after eating.
Do your best – to perform as good as possible.

A: John, you haven’t made your bed again! You made a promise that you would make it every morning.

B: I’m sorry mum, I’m just too busy with school.

A: It only takes a couple of minutes! Also, you always make a mess when you get home and never do anything around the house.

B: Stop making a fuss.

A: It’s important to me. I do the washing, do the ironing, do the dishes; I don’t have time to do everything.

B: OK. I’ll do my best to be better.

We hope you enjoyed learning the difference between these two verbs. Now test your knowledge with our do or make exercise.