Make or do?

Why is it wrong to say ‘make the dishes?’ Many students confuse do with make or vice versa, but how can we tell which verb we should use? It all depends on the kind of activity you’re talking about. Read on to find out!

When to use do


1. When talking about work

When we talk about work or jobs, we usually use do. This also includes housework and school subjects.

I don’t feel like doing any work today – I’m still hungover!
Could you do the shopping?
You never do the dishes!
He said he’d do the accounts after lunch.
I did French and Italian at school.
Have you done your homework?

2. When talking about indefinite activities

If we use words like thing, something, anything, nothing or what when talking about an activity, we use do.

She took a selfie and did this weird thing with her lips – she looked like a duck.
Don’t just stand there, do something!
I just love doing nothing on Sundays.
What shall we do? Shall we order pizza?

When to use make


We use make when talking about creating, constructing or producing something. We also use make when talking about food or meals.

I made a cake.
We should make a plan.
I made bacon and eggs for breakfast.

Fixed expressions 


You can expose yourself to a number of common fixed expressions that use either do or make by reading or listening. Here’s a list to help you out.

Fixed expressions using do

do gooddo harmdo your best
do a favourdo businessdo your duty
do sportdo exercisedo 80 km/h
do your hairdo your nailsdo your teeth

Fixed expressions using make

make an offermake a journeymake a suggestion
make a decisionmake an effortmake an attempt
make arrangementsmake an excusemake a mistake
make a noisemake a callmake an exception
make moneymake a profitmake a fortune
make progressmake a firemake love
make warmake peacemake a bed

Note: we can say both do and make a bed

Expressions that don’t use do or make


These expressions can be tricky for Swiss/German learners of English – take note!

photo: take a photo (not make)

experience: have an experience (not make)

Questions? Leave a comment below or send a message! Share this with a friend who keeps doing – *ahem* making mistakes!



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