Posted by: Idioma Extra | March 6, 2013

Grammar Guru

Do vs. Make


Much like non-native Spanish speakers who have trouble with “ser” and “estar,” there is a lot of confusion that surrounds the verbs “do” and “make” in English.  Spanish has only one verb for these two: “hacer.”

Below is a pretty good explanation that was adapted from:

When you are done, play this game to practice: Make/Do Place Your Bet


General Activities

Use “do” for general activities:

  • I want to do something.
  • What are you doing?
  • What did you do yesterday?
  • There is a lot to do in Toronto

Us “do” to talk about work:

  • What do you do? (What is your job?)
  • Who does the laundry in your house?
  • I don’t want to do any work today.
  • I hate doing the cleaning.
  • Have you done your homework?

Note that “do” can replace another more specific verb
(but only when the meaning is clear from the situation).
This is informal, but common in spoken English.

  • Do the exam (write/take the exam)
  • Do the dishes (wash the dishes)
  • Do the laundry (wash the laundry)


“Make” often expresses the idea of construction or creation:

  • I’ll make a cake for Anthony’s birthday.
  • This car was made in France.
  • Did you make this table yourself?

Now compare with “do”:

  • Do the shopping

(We don’t really create anything. We just “do” an activity.)

  • Make a cake

(We actually create something from nothing.)

In the next example, notice “make” is for creation (the cake)
and “do” is for the general activity, even though they are really
talking about the same thing:

  • I must make Anthony’s cake. I’ll do it now.

Do and Make are used in many phrases in English.  These
charts show how you can use them differently.


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