Word pairs: make | do

Questions
Overview

The verbs make and do often cause confusion because in other languages, there is sometimes only one main word (e.g. fazer) to express these two verbs. There are some basic rules to help decide which verb to use but there are many exceptions (especially when using 'make' and 'do' in idiomatic expressions).

When to use 'make'

Generally, we use 'make' when something is created or produced. This is typically a physical creations (e.g. make a cake) but it can also be abstract, e.g. make a complaint.

Examples:

  • The door is made of wood.
  • I will make some coffee for us.
  • Let's make some plans for the weekend.

When to use 'do'

Generally, we use 'do' when we complete, perform or execute an activity, task or type of work that already exists, i.e. we didn't create it.

  • I will do my homework (note - the homework was made by the teacher)
  • I'll do the ironing (note - this is a type of work)

Exceptions

There are many uses of make and do* that do not fit that clearly into the above rules.

  • Can you do me a favour?
  • It's a good habit to make your bed every day.
Further learning
Description Author Language
Lots of useful rules to help choose between 'make' and 'do'. Also, a list of common collocations. Woodward English
Some basic rules and exceptions. Includes subtitles. English with Lucy
Summary of the main tip for helping to decide between 'make' and 'do'. Blog da Focus
Some rules for using 'make' and 'do'. BBC Learning