DO or MAKE – Which one to use?

DO or MAKE – The difference between them.

The verb DO can be either an auxiliary (helping) verb or a main verb.

1. As an auxiliary verb, DO has no particular meaning. It is used mainly for forming questions.

  • Do you like coffee?
  • Do you go on holiday every year?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

2. As a main verb: DO is used for actions in general, without necessarily specifying what the action is:

  • I want to do something.
  • What shall we do tomorrow?

3. DO is used for an activity which doesn’t actually produce anything tangible:

  • Are you doing well with your studies?
  • I get tired of doing the same thing every day.

4. DO is used for work, jobs and professions:

  • What do you do for a living? (What is your job?)
  • Have you done your homework yet?


NOTE: As with GET, in spoken English we sometimes use DO to replace another verb,
but only when the meaning is clear. This is very informal and not used in written English.

  • Do the dishes (wash/dry the dishes)
  • Do your hair (brush, wash, cut, arrange your hair)


The verb MAKE is always a main verb, never an auxiliary.

1. MAKE usually means to produce or construct something physical:

  • I made a pizza for dinner.
  • This car was made in Italy.

2. MAKE is used to say what material an object is fabricated from:

  • This table is made from wood.
  • My new dress is made of cotton and polyester.

3. We also use MAKE to say where something has been manufactured:

  • For example: Made in China.

4. Be careful however, because MAKE is quite often used in expressions where we are creating something that     is not a tangible object.

  • To make a fuss.
  • To make an idiot of yourself.


NOTE: We can use both verbs in the same sentence: MAKE to mean the creation of something, and DO to refer to the general action.

  • I must make something for dinner; but I’ll do it later.


Some expressions with DO

do good do harm do a favour
do well do badly do business
do the shopping do your job do a course
do your homework do the dishes do a test


Some expressions with MAKE

make an excuse make a noise make a profit
make a suggestion make peace make war
make an offer make a phone call make changes
make a complaint make an effort make a decision
make money make the bed make someone happy

Related Content:
BBC English – Do or Make
Cambridge Dictionaries – The verb DO
Cambridge Dictionaries – The verb MAKE
Woodward English – Do or Make

Why not get a full course of English lessons in PDF eBook format?

There are 12 lessons in each booklet, (every lesson has exercises with answers).

Sign up for your 'How to teach English' Guide
and claim your first eBook FREE!