When to use Make or Do
Do and Make are two of the most common verbs in English. They are also two of the most commonly confused verbs in English! There are two main reasons for this:
Many languages have only one of these verbs. For example, in Italian 'fare' translates for both 'do' and 'make'.
Many of the expressions are fixed expressions such as: make the bed, do homework.
This guide should help you learn the most common uses of both Do and Make in English.
Fixed Expressions with 'Do'
Here are the some of the most common fixed expressions with 'do':
do the dishes
do your best
do a favor
do 50 mph
do your duty
do your hair
do a deed
do penance / time
do right / wrong
Fixed Expressions with 'Make'
Here are the some of the most common fixed expressions with 'make':
make an offer
make an exception
make a mistake
make peace / war
make money / a profit
make a phone call
make an effort / attempt
make (a) noise
make a suggestion
make a decision
make an excuse
General Rules for 'Do'
Use 'do' when speaking about vague, or indefinite activities. These include speaking in general using '-thing' words such as something, anything, nothing, etc.
Are you going to do anything about it?
Let's do something this afternoon.
I didn't do anything wrong!
Use 'do' for activities. This includes any chores or daily tasks.
Hurry up and do the dishes
Did you do your chores?
I didn't have time to do my homework
Use 'do' with various jobs and activities ending in '-ing' such as do some gardening, do some thinking, do some painting, etc. This use tends to be informal in nature and can often be stated in a different manner. For example, 'I did some studying this afternoon' can be stated 'I studied this afternoon'.
I did some thinking about your problem.
He did some reading this morning.
She's going to do some resting on vacation.
General Rules for 'Make'
Generally, use 'make' when actually constructing or creating something (in other words, NOT for activities).
I made a cup of tea for breakfast.
He made his daughter a rocking horse.
Did you make that wonderful bread?
Once you have studied these general rules and fixed expressions, test your understanding with this 30 question 'do' or 'make' quiz.
By Kenneth Beare, About.com Guide