What is the difference between ‘make’ and ‘do’?

The verbs ‘make’ and ‘do’ are two very common and useful English verbs. In fact, they are two of the first English verbs that many students learn after the verb ‘to be’. ‘Make’ and ‘do’ have similar meanings, but there are some subtle differences with how we use these two verbs. It can be difficult to know when to use ‘make’ and when to use ‘do’ sometimes, as in some languages the direct translation for both verbs is the same word.

In today’s blog post, we will look at the difference between ‘make’ and ‘do’ and some common collocations with both ‘make’ and ‘do’. A collocation is a verb phrase or combination of words that usually go together and sound natural. For example, ‘do my homework’ is a common collocation with the verb ‘do’. ‘Make my homework’ is wrong and doesn’t sound natural.

As a general rule, we can use the verb ‘do’ to describe a task, chore or activity, whereas ‘make’ is used when we talk about creating something. We can also use ‘make’ as a causative verb. For this, use subject + make + object + verb or adjective.

For example, “Her parents made her do her homework.”

“The smell of that bread baking is making me hungry.”

“Chart music makes Grandma cover her ears.”

Common collocations with ‘make’

  • Make a mess
  • Make time for
  • Make a noise
  • Make a fuss
  • Make a fool of yourself/someone
  • Make a cup of tea
  • Make some food
  • Make friends
  • Make a profit
  • Make a phone call
  • Make a comment

Common collocations with ‘do’

  • Do the ironing
  • Do the laundry
  • Do the dishes
  • Do research/work/homework
  • Do someone’s hair/nails/eyelashes
  • Do someone a favour
  • Do nothing/something/anything
  • Do without
  • Do one’s best
  • Do business with
  • Do a (adjective) job

Make do

Strangely, in English we actually have a phrase which uses both verbs ‘make’ and ‘do’! To make do means to get by or to survive with limited resources or without the ideal amount of something.

“We only have 200g of flour, but the recipe calls for 225g. We’ll make do and hope for the best.”

“I can’t be bothered to go to the supermarket today. We will just have to make do with leftovers for dinner tonight.”

“The little girl didn’t have a red crayon to colour the roses, so she made do with pink and orange.”

Practice activity

Make sentences using ‘make’ or ‘do’ and the following words. Post them in the comments and an Intrepid English Teacher will get back to you!






a favour

Check out our other blog post all about collocations with make, do , have, and other verbs. 

If you are an Intrepid English Member, you can learn more about this topic and other useful grammar hacks in our Fast Grammar course.


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