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Make vs. Do: Learn The Difference With 140+ Expressions And Examples

Confused about how to use the words ‘make’ and ‘do’ in English? No problem! In this study guide, we will show you 140+ expressions and examples to demonstrate the practical differences between make vs. do. Ready? Let’s jump in!

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What is the difference between make and do?

Make or do? – that is the question! These are some of the most commonly confused words for learners of English. Most errors appear where there are differences in how and when ‘make’ and ‘do’ are used in English vs. your native language. Let’s look at some basic theory to understand the general meaning of ‘make’ vs. ‘do’ in English.

Difference between make and do

How to use MAKE

I make – He/She makes – We/They make
I will make – I am making – I made – I have made

The verb make is used when talking about creation or production in a process. In other words, it is used to refer to the result of an action. For example: ‘Make a cup of tea’, ‘Make plans for the future’ or ‘Make a model boat out of wood’.

Made can be used to indicate the material of a product. For example, we can say that a spoon is ‘made of steel’. In this case, we would say made, as in the past tense of make. The creation has already taken place and now the spoon is made of steel.

How to use DO

I do – She/He does – They/We do
I will do – I am doing – I did – I have done

The verb ‘do’ is used when we talk about tasks, duties, obligations and routine work. It refers to the process of carrying out these actions. This verb is similar to the formal words perform or execute (as in: execute a command). For example: ‘I did my homework yesterday evening.’ (completed task).

Another use of the verb do is to replace a different verb in the context of a clear or straightforward result. For example: ‘Do the dishes’ (vs. wash the dishes). ‘Do my hair’ means cut, dye, style or perform another similar action on my hair. The word ‘do’ can also be used for recreational and individual sports, such as martial arts. For example: ‘Do karate twice a week’ (take part in this sporting activity, perhaps by attending a class).

Native speakers often use ‘do’ in the way described above. If you want your English to sound more natural, then you should learn how to use ‘do’ as a substitute for other verbs. Read on to find more examples of this!

Remember that ‘do’ can be used as an auxiliary verb in questions and for added emphasis. In these contexts, it is not used to mean ‘performing an action’.

Do in questions: In ‘Do you like music?’ the word ‘do’ is just used to indicate a question. ‘You like music.’ would be a fact. Learners often make the mistake of leaving out the ‘do’ in English questions because in their own language rising intonation is enough. Only in informal English is this possible where the context is 100% clear. For example, just: ‘Coffee?’ (when you are about to pour a cup and you are asking for your friend’s permission).

Do for emphasis: In ‘Lucy thinks I don’t love her, but I do. I really do!’ the use of ‘do’ shows the contradiction between what Lucy thinks and what the speaker feels.
In summary, ‘do’ usually refers to the process and ‘make’ refers to the result or creative aspect of the process. For example, you would do some cooking (process), but you would make dinner (result).

140+ Collocations with make or do

Collocations with MAKE

Phrasal verbs using do

  • Make a demand (= Ask for something in an authoritative manner)
    ‘Several bank staff are being held hostage and the robbers are now making demands.’
  • Make an objection (= Complain or dispute something)
    ‘If anyone would like to make an objection, please raise your hand now.’
  • Make a complaint (= State unhappiness)
    ‘The angry customer made a complaint to the company’s head office.’
  • Make a phone call (= Call someone on the phone)
    ‘I need to make a quick phone call. Can I use your landline?’
  • Make enquiries (= Ask about a subject, request information)
    ‘I’m thinking about joining a local company, but I still need to make some enquiries.’
  • Make an offer (= Suggest, put forward a proposal)
    I was going to put my house on the market, but then a friend made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.’
  • Make an agreement (= Reach consensus, create legislation)
    ‘Politicians at the summit are eager to make an agreement on climate change.’
  • Make a comment (= Briefly give your opinion)
    ‘I would like to make a comment on the issue of social housing.’
  • Make a remark (= Comment in a spontaneous manner)
    ‘The journalist made a sarcastic remark about the politician’s personal fortune.’
In many cases, the use of ‘make’ in “communicative collocations” creates a higher level of formality. In everyday conversation, it is more common to use the noun as a verb in place of the formal collocation. For example, instead of ‘make an agreement’ or ‘make a comment’, you can just say ‘(to) agree on’ or ‘(to) comment on’.
  • Make a speech (= Speak publicly on a topic)
    ‘At British weddings, it is customary for the father of the bride to make a speech.’
  • Make a fuss (= Complain, worry unnecessarily, give affectionate attention)
    ‘I wish my husband wouldn’t make such a fuss every time I go out with my friends!’
    ‘My grandma always made a fuss of us as children.’ (Positive – loved and spoiled them)
  • Make an excuse (= Justify an action)
    ‘The boss made an excuse and left the meeting early.’
  • Make a point (= State an argument, advocate an idea)
    ‘John made some good points in his presentation, but I didn’t agree with everything he said.’
  • Make an observation (= Give your view on a topic, state what you have noticed)
    ‘Following our exam results, the teacher made several observations about our lack of progress!’

  • Make a suggestion (= Put forward an idea, share an opinion to help others)
    ‘Could I make a suggestion? Perhaps red curtains would go better with this wallpaper.’
  • Make conversation (= Talk to others, sometimes about trivial matters)
    ‘When I asked about his new job, I was just making conversation.’(No real interest)
  • Make contact (= Find and establish communication)
    ‘After a 5-year absence, Mary’s brother finally made contact with her via Facebook.’
  • Make a noise/sound (= Produce a sound)
    ‘I thought the dishwasher was broken because it was making a strange noise.’
  • Make an exception (= Agree to break the rules in one instance)
    ‘We don’t normally allow dogs in here, but I suppose we can make an exception this time.’
  • Make it clear (= Ensure something is understood by all)
    ‘I’d like to make it clear that all new staff are expected to attend our weekly meetings.’
  • Make a cake (= Bake a cake)
    ‘My mum makes me a cake for my birthday every year.’
  • Make spaghetti (= Cook spaghetti, could also mean to make it from raw ingredients)
    ‘The Italians make the world’s most fantastic fresh spaghetti!’ (Make from scratch)
    ‘I’m making spaghetti for dinner. Would you like some?’ (Cooking)
  • Make a cup of tea (= Brew tea, make a cuppa)
    ‘Work has been an absolute nightmare today! Make me a nice cuppa, would you?’
  • Make a snack (= Prepare a snack)
    ‘Dave was supposed to be on a diet, but I found him in the kitchen making a snack!’
  • Make a meal (= Cook a meal, make breakfast/lunch/dinner)
    ‘Would you mind making some meals for my granddad while I’m away on holiday?’
    ‘I’ll make dinner tonight if you make breakfast tomorrow morning, ok?’
In British English, we say ‘make a meal of (something)’ to mean: do it very badly. For example, ‘I asked John to fix the back door, but he made a complete meal of it!’ – the result might be that now the door is broken or needs to be fixed by a professional.
  • Make money (= Earn money)
    ‘I heard that if you start your own business, you can make some serious money!’
    ‘There are many ways to make money. Robbing a bank is just one of them!’
  • Make a bid (= Compete to buy at auction/tender, attempt to get)
    ‘Our company made a bid on a large commercial property at an auction last week.’
    ‘Our charity is in the process of making a bid for additional government grants.’
  • Make a trade (= Perform stock market operation, exchange)
    ‘With current stock market volatility, it’s hard to know exactly when to make a trade.’
  • Make a loss (= Loose money in a business context)
    ‘If a company makes a loss, it can be in danger of running up debts or going bankrupt.’
  • Make a profit (= Gain money in a business context)
    ‘If our firm makes a profit this year, I will get a 10% bonus!’
  • Make a fortune (= Become rich by earning money)
    ‘I friend of mine has recently made a fortune in the property business.’
  • Make an investment (= Put in capital in order to gain profit later)
    ‘Our company has made several key investments in the Middle East this year.’
  • Make a living (= Earn enough money to cover expenses)
    ‘How do British expats make a living in Spain if they don’t speak the language?’
  • Make a name for yourself (= Form a reputation)
    ‘Jessica has really made a name for herself. You should see her sales figures this quarter!’
  • Make a law (= Set a rule, introduce new legislation)
    ‘The government has made a law to stop people smoking in the workplace.’
  • Make room/way (= Accommodate, compromise to make something fit)
    ‘I’m super busy this week! Any chance you could make room for me on the 16th?’
    ‘Several older members of staff have been fired to make way for the new recruits.’
  • Make a payment (= Pay for something)
    ‘I need to make a payment using a business debit card, but your website isn’t working!’
  • Make (someone) smile/laugh (= Cause to smile or laugh)
    ‘John’s a funny guy! When we’re down the pub, he always makes me laugh.’
  • Make (someone) happy/sad/angry (= Cause to feel)
    ‘The council’s decision to close the library has made local residents really angry.’
  • Make amends (= Make reparations, rectify a wrongdoing)
    ‘Do you think convicted murderers can ever make amends for their crimes?’
When learning collocations and phrasal verbs, write down all the possible prepositions and particles they can take. For example, if you know that the correct form is ‘to make amends FOR something’, then you will not make mistakes like ‘amends to’ or ‘amends on’. Errors often appear where the English usage is different from that in your native language.
  • Make love (= Have sexual intercourse with someone you care about)
    ‘Police in Thailand have arrested two British tourists for making love on the beach!’

NOTE: It is a common mistake to say ‘make sex’. The correct form is ‘have sex’ or ‘make love’.

  • Make a move (= Make a pass at someone, also ‘leave’ in slang)
    ‘Martin really likes Sally, but he’s too shy to make a move (on her).’
    ‘It’s already 1am! Shall we make a move?’(Leave, go)
  • Make a good impression (= Show your best side)
    ‘When you go on a first date, it’s important to make a good impression (on the person).’
  • Make a promise (= Swear to do something, give your word)
    ‘When I was a kid, I made a promise to my mum. Now I still clean my room once a week!’
  • Make friends (= Become friends with someone)
    ‘Maggie’s really outgoing so she makes friends easily at home and abroad.’
  • Make a commitment (= Accept responsibility, form a binding relationship)
    ‘I really love my boyfriend, but we’ve got no future if he can’t make a commitment.’

NOTE: In the context of relationships, a ‘commitment’ could be any of the following: agreeing to only date one person, moving in with your partner, making long-term plans together, considering marriage.

  • Make a fool of yourself (= Embarrass yourself by saying or doing the wrong thing)
    ‘The goalkeeper made a fool of himself by throwing the ball into his own net!’
  • Make war/peace (= Start/stop conflict)
    ‘Some countries make war, while others make peace.’ 
  • Make an example of (= Punish one person to discourage others from doing the same)
    ‘Jon was late for school again so the teacher decided to make an example of him.’
  • Make fun of (= Joke about someone or something)
    ‘Can you please stop teasing your sister? She doesn’t like it when you make fun of her! ’ 
  • Make trouble (= Create a problem for others, antagonise)
    ‘On match days, football fans are often blamed for making trouble in the city.’
  • Make the best/most of (= Take advantage, seize the opportunity, tolerate)
    ‘Ronaldo made the most of the defender’s mistake and rounded the goalkeeper to score.’
    ‘Tomorrow’s weather isn’t great for our walk, but we’ll just have to make the most of it.’
A funny example of a confusing expression in English is ‘to make do’? This expression uses ‘make’ and ‘do’! It means: to cope or manage with few resources or to get by with what you have.
  • Make a decision (= Decide, choose, come to a conclusion)
    ‘Are you coming with us to Spain? You really need to make a decision by next weekend.’
  • Make (something) happen (= Cause to happen)
    ‘The authorities still don’t know what made this terrible tragedy happen.’
    ‘We’ve only got 24 hours to complete this project. Let’s make it happen, people!’
  • Make up your mind (= Decide on something, choose)
    ‘Michelle is still dating two different guys because she can’t make up her mind!’ 
  • Make an exception (= Allow a rule to be broken due to special circumstances)
    ‘We don’t usually allow babies in the pool, but I’ll ask if we can make an exception.’ 
  • Make an attempt (= Try to do something)
    ‘Mike made an attempt to look interested, but physics wasn’t really his subject.’
  • Make a judgement (= Analyse a situation, give an opinion)
    ‘It is difficult to make objective judgements about foreign policy issues.’ 
  • Make an effort (= Work hard to achieve a goal, attempt)
    ‘You need to make an effort if you want to pass your exams this summer!’
  • Make progress (= Advance, develop)
    ‘I really feel like I’m making progress with my book. It should be ready to publish soon!’
  • Make a plan (= Agree on a course of action)
    ‘If you want to be successful in business, then first you need to make a plan.’
  • Make time (= Set aside time for something/someone)
    ‘I’d love to go to the gym, but I just can’t make time at the moment!’
    ‘Work’s been taking over recently! I really need to make more time for my kids.’ 
  • Make a difference (= Have an effect on)
    ‘Curtis is so stubborn! You can try to persuade him, but it won’t make any difference.’
    ‘I want to find a job where I can make a difference to people’s lives.’
  • Make a change (= Start something new, change your life or behaviour)
    ‘I’ve been living in London for 2 years, but now I feel it’s time to make a change.’
  • Make sure/certain (= Ensure something is as it should be)
    Make sure you take your passport to the airport. Don’t forget it like you did last time!’
  • Make the bed (= Make fit for use/sleep, tidy up)
    ‘I’ll make the bed if you go downstairs and make breakfast.’
  • Make a mess (= Create an untidy, dirty or disorganised situation)
    ‘If you give kids brushes and paint, they are bound to make a mess!’
    ‘My boss has made a total mess of this paperwork! I’ll have to do it all again tomorrow.’

How to use make or do

  • Make a dress (= Create or sew a dress)‘
    My friend Gill made her own wedding dress and it looked fantastic!’ 
  • Make furniture (= Create furniture through carpentry or woodwork)‘
    My grandfather used to make furniture for a living. These days it’s all made in factories.’
  • Make a copy (= Duplicate, create a copy of something)
    ‘I love this album! Can you make me a copy?’ 
  • Make a new product (= Invent, think up)
    ‘Apple is always making new products. That’s what makes it such a great tech company.’
  • Make steel wire (= Manufacture)
    ‘This factory used to make steel wire, but it closed due to competition from overseas.’
  • Make a fire (= Build and light a fire)
    ‘When trying to survive in the wilderness, the first thing to do is make a fire.’
  • Make a wish (= Will something to happen, hope something will come true)
    ‘When you blow out the candles on your birthday cake, don’t forget to make a wish!’’
  • Make believe (= Imaginary, fantasy, ideal but not real)
    ‘The government has promised to invest in public services, but that’s just make believe!’
    Alice in Wonderland is a children’s book that is set in a make-believe world.’ (Adjective)
  • Make sense (= Be sensible, reasonable, understood)
    ‘I don’t think it makes sense to earn a lot of money if you then have no time to enjoy it.’
    ‘Did you have a bit to drink last night? You weren’t making any sense on the phone!’ 
  • Make a discovery (= Find something new, invent, realise)
    ‘Scientists from NASA have made a new discovery on Mars!’
Watch out for collocations that allow the use of ‘make’ AND ‘do’. These are rare, but you should learn them. For example, ‘Do a presentation’ (conduct/perform) vs. ‘Make a presentation’ (same meaning, or emphasises its creation) or ‘make the bed’ (Standard English) vs. ‘do the bed’ (colloquial).
  • Make a visit (Go to, travel to)
    ‘The Queen will make a state visit to France while she is in Europe.’ 
  • Make a booking/reservation (= Reserve a place)
    ‘I’d like to make a reservation. Do you have any availability on Sunday the 25th at 7pm?’
  • Make an appointment (= Schedule an individual consultation or meeting)
    ‘All patients wishing to make an appointment should phone to book in advance.’ 
  • Make arrangements (= Organise or plan something)
    ‘I’ve made arrangements for the kids to stay with my parents over the weekend.’
  • Make a cancellation (= Annul a previous booking or appointment)
    ‘Hello, I’m phoning to make a cancellation. My order number is…’
  • Make a list (= Have an agenda of tasks)
    ‘My wife has made a list of all the things I’ve done wrong. As you can imagine, it’s quite long!’
  • Make a journey (= Travel somewhere)
    ‘To raise money for charity, Jan is planning to make a journey from the UK to Mongolia!’
  • Make it (= Get to a place, attend)
    ‘I’m really busy next weekend, but I’ll do my best to make it to the party!’
    ‘I’m afraid I’m not going to make it back in time for dinner.’(Get home)

NOTE: We can also use ‘make’ to mean: get into or deserve a place in. For example, ‘John made the first team’ (won a place in the team through his performance) or ‘The car accident made the headlines’ (was included in the news). John did not create or form the team, nor did the car accident write the headlines.

Collocations with DO

Make and do exercises

  • Do the dishes/washing/ironing (= Wash the dishes, wash and iron clothes)
    ‘I really hate doing the dishes, but I don’t mind mowing the lawn.’
  • Do housework (= Perform routine cleaning/tidying around the house)
    ‘Women still do the majority of housework in the UK, and that’s not fair!’
  • Do the shopping (= Buy food and household goods)
    ‘We do the shopping once a week at a large supermarket.’
  • Do it yourself (= DIY, perform amateur repairs or renovation work yourself)
    ‘I only learned to do DIY when I bought my first house. It needed a lot of work!’
  • Do your nails (= Have a manicure)
    ‘Do you do your own nails or do you go to a beauty salon?’
  • Do your makeup (= Put on cosmetics)
    ‘How long does it take for you to do your makeup in the morning?’
  • Do 60 miles per hour (= Drive or travel at 60 mph)
    ‘When I commute to London, I want to be doing 70 (mph), but I’m usually stuck in traffic!’
  • Do maths/biology/English (= Study a subject)
    ‘What’s your son doing at school now? Mine is doing A-Level Maths and Biology?’
  • Do homework (= Complete tasks given by your teacher)
    ‘When I was at school, all the kids used to do their homework on the bus in the morning!’
  • Do an exercise (= Complete a study or training task)
    ‘The Biology teacher asked us to do an exercise from the textbook.’
  • Do a crossword (= Complete a crossword puzzle)
    ‘I like doing crosswords on the train.’
  • Do a quiz (= Play a game in which you have to answer questions on a topic)
    ‘My parents do a quiz at the local pub every Wednesday night.’
  • Do a translation (= Convert from one language to another)
    ‘On the final exam, you have to do a translation from French into English.’
  • Do research (= Investigate a topic, study in depth)
    ‘British cancer specialists are currently doing research into cell regeneration.’
  • Do some studying (= Learn something, revise)
    ‘I really need to do some studying because I’m behind on my uni work!’
  • Do an essay (= Complete an assignment)
    ‘Will I have to do any essays as part of the English course?’
  • Do a test/exam (= Evaluate, check knowledge)
    ‘I disagree with scientists doing tests on lab rats. It’s so cruel!’
    ‘Are you doing your exams this week or next?’
  • Do a task (= Solve a problem, perform a job)
    ‘The teacher asked us to do a task on reading comprehension.’
  • Do a course (= Attend a class or study programme)
    ‘If I have time, I’d like to do a Spanish course abroad next summer.’
The word ‘do’ can be used informally as a noun in British English when referring to a social event or party. For example, ‘Are you going to Mike’s birthday do next Saturday?’ or ‘There’s a do on at the local (pub) this weekend, if you fancy it.’
  • Do a robbery (= Commit an armed theft)
    ‘The police were unaware that the gang was planning to do a robbery in the area.’
  • Do time (= Spend time in prison)
    ‘I guy I used to go to school with is now doing time for murder.’
  • Do drugs (= Take illegal narcotics)
    ‘At British schools they teach teenagers about the dangers of doing drugs.’
  • Do a raid (= Police attack to arrest criminals)
    ‘The police did a raid on a local warehouse early this morning.’
  • Do sport (= Engage in sports, USA = ‘play sports’)
    ‘How often do kids do sport at your school?’ (Informal)
  • Do exercise (= Train physically)
    ‘Doctors recommend you do some active physical exercise every day.
  • Do Karate/Judo (= Train in martial arts)
    ‘I used to do karate when I was a uni, but I don’t have time these days.’
  • Do gymnastics/ballet/yoga (= Perform or practise gymnastics/ballet/yoga)
    ‘My mum’s really active! She does yoga on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.’
  • Do Athletics (= Train in athletics)
    ‘I hated doing athletics at school. Now I won’t even watch the Olympics!’
  • Do a drawing (= Sketch or draw something)
    ‘My daughter did a beautiful drawing for me so I put it up on the wall at work.’
  • Do a dance (= Show your dance moves, perform a dance)
    ‘When I win a new contract a work, I always do a little victory dance for my colleagues!’
  • Do a number (= Perform a live act)
    ‘Harry did a great number at the charity talent show. I never knew he could juggle!’

NOTE: Football, rugby, cricket, basketball, tennis, etc. usually to take ‘play’ and not ‘do’.

  • What do you do? (= What is your job?)
    ‘I work for a large law firm. What do you do (for a living)?’
  • Do business (= Trade, buy or sell)
    Doing business internationally can be a real challenge.’
    ‘Our company mostly does business with local suppliers.’
In Spanish, both ‘make’ and ‘do’ can be translated as the single word ‘HACER’. Does your native language have a distinction between ‘make’ and ‘do’? Perhaps these concepts are expressed in a different way than in English.
  • Do work (= Carry out a job or task)
    ‘Can you please stop distracting me? I really need to do some work this afternoon!’
  • Do a deal (= Agree a contract or arrangement)
    ‘I heard you’re doing a deal with Sony. That’s great news for the company!’
  • Do a project (= Execute a planned set of tasks)
    ‘Our firm is doing a joint project with a company from Holland.’
  • Do your job (= Perform your work-related tasks)
    ‘If you do your job well, you can expect a nice bonus at the end of the year.’
  • Do an operation (= Perform a surgical procedure)
    ‘Doctor Pearce was in theatre doing an operation so I called another member of staff.’
  • Do an experiment (= Carry out an experiment)
    ‘We’re doing an experiment at work to examine the effects of stress on productivity.’
  • Do paperwork (= Carry out bureaucratic admin tasks)
    ‘I’m responsible for doing most of the paperwork in our family business.’
  • Do the accounts/books (= Perform accounting work)
    ‘I’m no good with numbers so I get an accountant to do my books once a year.’
  • Do a talk (= Give a public presentation or speech)
    ‘Our local school has invited me in to do a talk about career opportunities in London.’
  • Do a presentation (= Conduct a formal talk on a subject)
    ‘I’m super nervous because I have to do a presentation at our next conference.’
  • Do overtime (= Stay late to work more)
    ‘Julie is off sick so I have to do overtime all this week to cover for her.’
  • Do your best (= Try your hardest)
    ‘I know you didn’t have enough time to revise for the exam, but just do your best!
  • Do good (= Perform an act of kindness, be of benefit to your health)
    ‘Charities in Africa think they’re doing good, but perhaps that’s not always the case.’
    ‘You should get out in the fresh air more. It would do you good!’
The noun ‘do-gooder’ is a negative term for a person who tries to help others, but is seen to be an interfering nuisance. We can also use the funny expression ‘goodie-two-shoes’ about a person who tries to be good and follow the rules all the time!
  • Do the right thing (= Act in a morally correct way)
    ‘Divorces are never easy, but I’m sure you’ll both do the right thing by your kids.’
  • Do your duty (= Fulfil your responsibility)
    ‘Soldiers need to do their duty to their country in times of war.’
  • Do a favour (= Help another person)
    ‘Can you do me a big favour and pick the kids up from school tomorrow?’
  • Do something right/wrong (= Carry out an action correctly/incorrectly)
    ‘You must have done something wrong because now the computer isn’t working at all.’
    ‘Beautiful wife, smart kids, great job…you must be doing something right!’ (In life)
  • Do well/badly (= Perform well/badly)
    ‘Mary did well in her exams, but her brother did badly (in his exams).’ 
  • Do harm (= Hurt, injure)
    ‘It wouldn’t do you any harm to help me with the housework once in a while!’ 
  • Do damage (= Harm someone or something)
    ‘The accident did some serious damage to the side of my car!’
  • Do a lot (= Perform frequently, make a valuable contribution)
    ‘George does a lot for the local community through his volunteer work.’
    ‘Do you do a lot of cycling during the week?’
  • Do the (bare) minimum (= Put minimum effort into something)
    ‘When it comes to tidying the office, my colleagues always do the bare minimum!’
  • Do it to the max (= Put maximum effort into something, enjoy to the full)
    ‘If you only go clubbing once a year, then you might as well do it to the max!’
  • Do anything (= Perform any action, sacrifice it all)
    ‘Honestly, I haven’t done anything! It was all Lucy’s fault.’
    ‘I would do literally anything to meet Brad Pitt!’
  • Do everything (= Complete all tasks, try your hardest)
    ‘I promise to do everything I can to help.’
  • Do nothing (= Be idle, ignore)
    ‘My favourite hobby is doing nothing.’


Phrasal verbs with make and do

Phrasal verbs with MAKE


a) Imagine, think up, invent, lie

‘If you don’t know the answer, then just make one up!’
‘I really believed my son’s story about the broken window, but he had just made it up.’

b) Make peace after an argument, reconcile

‘I had an argument with my wife, but we’ve made up now.’
‘Has Mike made up with Chloe? I know they had a fight last week.’

c) Decide, choose (make up one’s mind)

‘There’s so much choice that I can’t make up my mind which ice cream to get!’
‘Will you please make up your mind? We haven’t got all day!’

d) Constitute, consist of (scientific/formal)

‘A car engine is made up of many different components.’
‘This social committee is made up of 12 community representatives.’

In everyday conversation, it is more common to say ‘made of’. For example, ‘What’s your guitar made of – wood or fibre glass?’. We can also move the material type into the adjective position, as in: ‘wooden guitar’ or ‘glass vase’. Only use ‘made up of’ in scientific or formal contexts.

e) Compensate for, add missing money/time

‘If you pay your share of the bill, then I will make up the difference.’
‘I was off work with a cold last week so now I’m making up the time by staying late.’
‘Sorry I didn’t get to your birthday! I promise I’ll make it up to you next time I’m in town.’
‘If I make a mistake a work, then I always try to make up for it after.’

f) Put on cosmetics

‘June liked to make herself up before going to the theatre.’
‘My girlfriend won’t leave the house without putting her makeup on!’ (Noun)

g) Prepare a room or bed for a guest

‘Robert’s coming to stay tomorrow so we need to make up the spare room.’
‘Have you made (up) the guest bed for Robert yet?’


a) Understand, comprehend (with difficulty)

‘She couldn’t make out what he was saying (due to the noise).’
‘Steve is such a weird guy! I just can’t make him out.’
‘Why are English trains always late? I just can’t make it out!
‘I could just about make out her writing, even though the letter was old and faded.’

b) Complete and sign over to

‘Richard made the cheque out to his son.’
‘The old man made out a will to his next of kin.’

c) Pretend, give a false impression

‘Some famous rappers make out they are real gangsters.’
‘The art thief made out that the fake copy was an original.’

d) Engage in sexual activity or intercourse (USA, informal)

‘The young couple were making out in the car when the police arrived.’


Think, understand, conclude

‘I’m not sure what to make of this!’ (I don’t know what to conclude, don’t understand it)
‘What do you make of this student’s poor attendance?’ (What is your opinion?)


Leave quietly, escape with a stolen item

‘We caught a brief glimpse of the tiger before it made off into the dark jungle.’
‘The burglar made off with a flat screen TV and some cash.’


Change into, turn into, transform

‘We plan to make our attic into an art studio.’
‘Worrying about your problems all the time will make you into a nervous wreck!’


a) Transfer ownership

‘I will make this house over to you before I die.’

b) Remodel, improve the appearance of something or someone

‘On the TV dating show, the 3 contestants were given a free makeover.’ (Noun)
‘Our house is in a bad condition, but we plan to make it over.’ (USA)


Go towards, try to escape

‘If you make for the valley, then you’ll be back at the campsite by nightfall.’
‘The frightened kitten made for the door, but it was closed.’

Phrasal verbs with DO


a) Improve condition of, renovate

‘We’ve bought a new house, but need to do it up before we can move in.
‘They really should do up the local school! It has been neglected for years.’

If you are buying a house in the UK, you can save a lot of money by choosing a “doer-upper”. This is a slang term for a house that you need to ‘do up’ or renovate. Properties like this are usually much cheaper, but require some hard work and investment.

b) Fasten, close

‘It’s getting cold. Do up your coat!’
‘We’re not driving anywhere until you do your seatbelt up!’


Fix up, renovate, decorate

‘They’ve had their kitchen done out in green tiles and marble worktops.’


Take away unfairly, prevent someone receiving what is rightfully theirs

‘Maggie’s relatives have secretly done her out of a large inheritance.’


Relate to, be connected with

‘I think tectonic plates have something to do with earthquakes, don’t they?’
‘Can you please mind your own business? This has nothing to do with you!’


Continue or live without something or someone

‘I’ve had my dog Sammy for 10 years. Now I just can’t do without him!’
‘If you don’t want to eat what I’ve cooked, then you can just do without!’ (Not eat anything)


a) Repeat, do again

‘This assignment is no good at all! You’ll have to do it over.’ (USA)

b) Beat up

‘The thief claims that the police did him over in his cell.’


Belittle, criticise, put down

‘I don’t think my boss likes me. He’s always trying to do me down!’
Note: ‘Put down’ is more common in British English.


Get rid of, abolish, remove

‘They are doing away with diesel cars. In the future, no one will manufacture them.’
‘The UK government has voted to do away with fox hunting.’

Practice tips and links to exercises

In this guide, you have seen over 160 combinations (collocations and phrasal verbs) with the words ‘make’ and ‘do’. However, learning them all is easier said than done! Try the following tips and exercises to help you remember the most commonly used expressions.

Make and do

Tips to help you learn make vs. do collocations
  1. KNOW THE BASICS: If something physical or abstract is being created, then ‘make’ is the likely choice. If the context focuses on the performance of a repetitive process, then ‘do’ may be preferable.
  2. HIT THE BOOKS: Textbooks like the Phrasal Verbs in Use series (Cambridge) and Practical English Usage (M. Swan) provide clear explanations and exercises on phrasal verbs and collocations. These are good books to have in your personal English library.
  3. LEARN OVER TIME: Be selective with your choice of collocations and phrasal verbs. Only learn expressions that you are likely to use regularly when speaking, reading and writing in English. Learn a few new combinations each week and build your vocabulary over time for the best results.
  4. ASK A NATIVE: Not sure whether to use ‘make’ or ‘do’? Not clear on the meaning of a collocation or phrasal verb? Try asking a native speaker for assistance! This could be your English teacher, a friend or a member of an ESL group on Facebook.
  5. CORRECT YOUR MISTAKES: If you want to improve your fluency in English, then you need to become your own best critic! This means analysing your errors and asking questions about why your English is sometimes wrong. Whenever you make a mistake, write it down, find the correct form and make an effort to learn it!
Exercises to help you practise with ‘make’ and ‘do’ has four sets of multiple choice exercises dedicated to the differences between ‘make’ and ‘do’. Well worth a look!

BBC Learning English has some basic explanations, followed by a multiple choice list of short exercises to help you test your understanding of make vs. do.

Cambridge English has an interesting interactive set of exercises. These ask you to select ‘make’ or ‘do’ for each example. The correct answer is then displayed. has a wide range of free materials on topics related to business English. These include one page of exercises on the difference between ‘make’ and ‘do’ in a work context.

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Written by Alex Jude —
ESL Specialist & CEO at Online Teachers UK

Alex Jude is the Founder & CEO of Online Teachers UK. He holds a BA hons degree in Linguistics from The University of Manchester and is a life-long English teacher. Following graduation, he spent 2002-2012 living and teaching in Russia, where he lectured in General Linguistics and Translation Studies. Alex is a fluent Russian speaker and worked with the BBC at the World Cup in 2018. In his spare time, he enjoys camping/bushcraft, playing guitar and watching rugby league.

Written by Alex Jude —
ESL Specialist & CEO at Online Teachers UK