Difference between ‘do & make’

(Rules and explanations for the verbs ‘do’ and ‘make’)

Table of contents – difference of ‘do & make’

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Use of ‘to do’ and ‘to make’
  2. Particularities of ‘to do’ and ‘to make’
  3. Further explanations and exercises

When and how are the verbs ‘to do’ and ‘to make’ used?

Due to their similarity in meaning, learners of English often confuse the verbs to do and to make, as both signify that an activity is ‘carried out’. However, there are differences in their use and, correspondingly, in their meaning. As a rule, ‘do’ typically suits, for example, when the statement is about actions or activities that do not result in a product on the one hand. On the other hand, ‘make’ is used when something is manufactured, produced, or created. But there are still exceptions! Compare the following uses of the two verbs:

  1. The verbto do’ is employed …
    • … when actions and activities need to be described in general. Examples (auxiliary verbs are marked in green in the sentences):
      • “What are you doing at the moment?”
      • “Peter has been doing his homework for hours.”
      • “My brother does a lot of sport.”
      • Can you do me a favour?”
      • “Jason has done a good job!”
    • … to replace the main verb that was previously mentioned (the auxiliary verbs are also green here):
      • Have you posted the letter yet? – No, I still have to do it.”
      • “I need to buy some milk at the supermarket, but I don’t have any time left. – No problem, I can do it for you.”
  2. The verb ‘to make’ is often utilised to express a production process or a procedure by which something is created. It is not common for activities. Examples:
    • “Mercedes makes cars.”
    • “My mum made a cake for the party.”
    • “Laura didn’t make any mistake in her last exam.”
    • “It’s useful to make a list of the things you need on holiday.”
    • Likewise, ‘make’ is used in the context of money:
      • “Currently, George has plenty of work, but he’s making a lot of money too.”
      • “The company that produces these devices made a huge profit last year.”
  3. Be careful: Also, ‘do’ and ‘make’ occasionally occur outside the above rules:
    • “I know you’ve been thinking about it for weeks, but have you made a decision yet?”
    • “I’ll be there in a minute. I have to make a phone call.”
      • In both cases, nothing is produced, and the actions are in the foreground, which could easily lead to using ‘do’ by mistake.

What are the particularities of ‘do’ and ‘make’?

In English, the following questions that include ‘do’ as the main verb are typical and frequently asked. However, you need to pay attention to the meaning when using them:

  • Note: The meaning of the verb ‘to do’ may differ:
    • “What do you do?”
      • alternative question: “What’s your job?”
    • “How are you doing?”
      • alternative question: “How are you?”
    • “How do you do?”
      • This utterance is an example of a formal greeting and is simply answered with the counter-question “How do you do?”.

Further explanations relating to the ‘Difference of ‘do’ and ‘make’

The following explanations are related to the topic ‘Explanations and rules for the verbs ‘make/do’’ and may help you too: