How to Use “Make” and “Do” in English

It can be difficult to know when to use “make” and when to use “do”. Here are some tips to help you make the right choice.

We use “make” for more creative activities:

“She makes her own clothes.”

“He made a beautiful hat for the wedding.”

We also use “make” to describe functions of speech – what we are doing when we speak:

You make
… an offer (“I’ll pay you $500 for your car.”)
… an appointment (“Can we meet at 9 am?”)
… an arrangement (“Let’s meet at the station.”)
… a promise (“I’ll help you with this photocopying.”)
… a threat (“If you do that again, I’ll tell him.”)
… a compromise
… a suggestion
… a promise
… a mistake
… a decision
… a point
… a complaint
… an excuse

There are also some “fixed expressions” with “make”:

“They made friends when they were at primary school.”

“He made fun of her new hairstyle.”

Other expressions are:

… make a fuss
… make a fortune
… make money
… make a profit / a loss
… make a journey
… make an effort
… make progress
… make a mess
… make a telephone call
… make a choice

One expression that uses either “do” or “make” is:
make a deal / do a deal (“I’ll do it if you help me.”)

Using do

We use “do” to refer to jobs, or responsibilities. These are often routine things, which do not involve much creativity or fun:

“I do the shopping once a week.”

“He does the gardening every weekend.”

“We have to do a lot of work on the house.”

You also do:
… your homework
… the housework
… a job
… the paperwork
… an exam

There are some fixed expressions that you can learn which use “do”:

“She does a lot of good in the community.”

“This chemical can do a lot of harm.”

“She always does favours for her colleagues.” (Do someone a favour = help someone)

Other expressions are:

… do something well / badly
… do your best
… do something right / wrong
… do the minimum / the maximum
… do damage

Make and Do Quiz

Level: Pre-intermediate and above

1. When he cooks, he always __ a mess in the kitchen!
2. He always __ his homework before he goes out.
3. You have to __ an effort to learn English!
4. Then you will __ progress!
5. She __ a lot of things in her free time.
6. It doesn't matter if you don't get 10/10. Just __ your best!
7. I always __ a lot of mistakes when I write.
8. Too much sugar in your diet can __ you harm.
9. Don't __ promises that you can't keep!
10. My grandmother __ the best chocolate cake!

21 thoughts on “How to Use “Make” and “Do” in English

  1. son do ngoc

    just like it. The more i read over, the more i remember it. It’ll be useful for my teaching.

  2. Clare Post author

    You could say either “do a degree” or “study for a degree”. For example, “She’s doing a degree in English” or “She’s studying for a degree in English”.

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