To make vs to do

English grammar (See all)

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To make vs to do

The verbs to do and to make are sometimes translated by only one verb in other languages. When do we know when to use each one? It is difficult to establish a rule: to do is used with some words, to make with others, forming expressions which just need to be memorized:

to do the dishes
to make a suggestion
to do the housework
to make a mistake
to do a favor
to make a noise
to do one's best
to make an effort
to do one's duty
to make a profit
to do the shopping
to make an agreement
to do business
to make an appointment

General trends:
•  To do is mainly used for jobs, tasks, etc...:
Did you do your homework?
Kevin did not do any work today.

•  To make is mainly used for creations, constructions, productions...:
I'll make a cake for her birthday.
Bruno made a little house for Stink in the garden.

Note: To make a decision rather than to take a decision. Although to take a decision exists in English (mainly in British English), this construction comes from French and is rarely used (it expresses an idea of a choice between various options). Therefore, to MAKE a decision is mainly used:
I made the decision to sell the company.
After interviewing all the applicants, we took the decision to hire the second candidate.

Some useful expressions:
I can't make it to the meeting. I won't be able to come to the meeting.
I made it! I succeeded!
Well done! Good job! I would like my steak well done. I would like my steak cooked thoroughly.
Make sure it gets done. Ensure that the task is completed.

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