Do vs. Make

English learners often have a hard time with the words make and do. What is the difference between them, and where are these two words used?

Do is a general action verb. It usually refers to work, chores, and common activities.

Make usually refers to creating or constructing something. It is more focused on the result of the action.

However, there are so many idioms and fixed phrases with make and do that it might be helpful just to memorize phrases in which they appear.


Do – Work and Chores

Do a job Please don’t bother me, I’m trying to do my job.
Do some work I think I’ll do some work this afternoon.
Do business My company has just started doing business in China.
Do the dishes Will you do the dishes if I cook?
Do the laundry I have to do the laundry tonight.
Do chores My brother helps me do the chores.
Do the shopping I’ll do the shopping this morning while I’m out.
Do homework Make sure to do your homework instead of playing video games all night!
Do research Justin is at the library, doing research for his history paper.

Do – Personal Care

Do exercise I should do more exercise.
Do yoga Jamie has been doing yoga for five years.
Do meditation I try to do a half-hour of meditation in the morning.
Do (a specifc exercise) I did ten push-ups and ten chin-ups this morning.
Do your nails I am going to do my nails before I go out tonight.
Do your hair You look great! Who does your hair?

Do – Activities in General

Do something Lucy is going to do something for her birthday, but she hasn’t decided what yet.
Do nothing I can’t just wait around and do nothing while my dog is lost!
Do anything Did you do anything special last weekend?
Do everything I want to do everything on my trip to Peru—see the rainforest, go to the beach, see historic sights, and climb to Machu Picchu.

Do – Talking about Good or Bad Actions

Do your best Don’t worry, just do your best.
Do the best you can Don’t worry, do the best you can.
Do well She did really well on the SATs.
Do badly I think I’m going to do badly in this class.
Do okay I did okay at the chess tournament, but I didn’t win the last round.
Do the right thing If you find someone’s wallet, do the right thing and turn it in to the police.
Do better If I keep practicing, I’ll do better next time.

Do – Other Common Phrases

Do damage The storm did some damage to our roof.
Do a favor Can you do me a favor?
Do a crossword (or another puzzle) She does a crossword puzzle every day on her commute to work.
Do harm Doctors take an oath, swearing to “do no harm.
Do your duty He became a soldier because he thought he should do his duty to his country.
Do a drawing/painting The boy did a drawing with the new crayons his mother gave him.
Do time (be in prison) I did time in San Quentin State Prison.

Make – Food

Make breakfast/lunch/dinner I usually make dinner around 6:00 pm.
Make coffee/tea My wife makes the coffee in the morning.
Make (a particular dish) Did you make this pasta sauce yourself? It’s delicious!

Make – Money

Make money I need to make money this summer, so I can’t go to school full time.
Make a fortune He made a fortune by investing in technology.
Make a living She makes a living as a research scientist.
Make a profit The business should be making a profit within a year.
Make $___ The teenager makes $15 dollars an hour babysitting.
Make an offer The buyers made an offer on our house, and we accepted it.

Make – Relationships

Make Friends He’s very funny, and makes friends quickly.
Make Love (have sex) The couple made love in the bedroom.
Make out (kiss for an extended period of time) The teenage couple made out in the back row of the movie theatre.
Make up (resolve a disagreement) My brother and I got into a fight, but we both apologized and made up quickly.

Make – Produce a Reaction

Make you cry Romantic movies always make me cry.
Make you sleepy Does reading make you sleepy?
Make you happy The surprise party made Sue really happy.
Make you mad I’m sorry I made you mad.

Make – Communication

Make a phone call I have to go; I need to make a phone call.
Make an observation He made some good observations about why the movie wasn’t interesting.
Make a comment If you’d like to make a comment, there will be some time for discussion after the presentation.
Make a speech The best man made a funny speech about the groom at the wedding.
Make an excuse He’s be late like always, and he’ll make some excuse.
Make a suggestion If you’ll let me make a suggestion – try breaking the eggs before you add them to the cake batter.
Make a fuss (demonstrate annoyance, or do something unwanted) I don’t want my mom to make a fuss over my birthday this year.

The toddler will make a fuss if you tell her she has to take a nap.

Make a point Okay, you’ve made your point. I agree with you.
Make a bet Do you want to make a bet on who will win the game?
Make fun of (mock) He’s different, so the other kids make fun of him.
Make a scene (throw a tantrum in public) He broke up with her at a restaurant, hoping that she wouldn’t make a scene in public.
Make a promise If she made a promise, you can believe she will keep it.

 Make – Other phrases

Make a decision Hurry up and make a decision about where to go to dinner.
Make up your mind I haven’t made up my mind about which car to buy.
Make plans Let’s make plans about what to do next weekend.
Make a list I always make a grocery list before I go to the store.
Make a reservation Michelle made reservations for two at a fancy restaurant.
Make an appointment Please make a doctor’s appointment soon.
Make a difference I always recycle, and I hope that makes a difference to the environment.
Make an effort You would improve if you would just make an effort.
Make sure Lisa went upstairs to make sure she had turned off the lights.
Make certain Can you tell me your birthday again? I think I know it, but I want to make certain.
Make progress Marco has been making progress in his English studies.
Make a mistake Jessica made a mistake and put salt in the cake instead of sugar.
Make your way After you get to the stoplight, turn left and make your way down Ash St.
Make a mess Please don’t make a mess in the kitchen.
Make the bed Do you always make your bed in the morning?
Make noise Children make so much noise when they play.
Make time Amanda always makes time for her old friends.
Make a commitment Once Ruth makes a commitment, she follows through with it.