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Vocabulary | Collocations with make and do


Make or do?

The verbs do and make can be confusing in English because the meaning is similar but they co-occur with different words. For example, you can say:

  • do an exercise.

But you can't say:

  • do a cake*.

The phrase do an exercise is called a collocation.

Definition of collocations

Collocations refer to words that usually go together. They co-occur more often than would be expected by chance.

So how can you distinguish between collocations with make and do?

Generally speaking, use do for activity and make to create something. Compare these examples:

  • I always do my homework in the evenings.
  • I like spaghetti. I make it everyday

But there are other things to consider when using do and make. Here are some tips to help you make the right choice.

Collocations with make and do

Collocations with do?

Use do when someone performs an action, activity or task.

Examples:

  • do
    ...the dishes
    ... an exercise
    ... the laundry
    ... the ironing
    ... the shopping

We use often use do to refer to work of any kind.

Examples:

  • do
    ... your work
    ... homework
    ... housework
    ... your job
    ... business
    ... your hair
    ... your nails

Use the verb 'do' when you speak about general things (to describe an action without saying exactly what the action is.)

Examples:

I've got nothing to do today.
He doesn't do anything all day long.
She does everything to attract him.

These are other expressions that you can use with do:

Examples:

  • do
    ... one's best
    ... good
    ... harm
    ... a favor
    ... business
    ... things right / badly / well
    ... good
    ... harm
    ... time - (to go to prison)
    ... your best / worst.

Collocations with make?

We use the verb make to construct, build or create. The result is something that you can touch.

They make tea with mint in Morocco.
She makes beautiful dresses.
Let's make a cup of coffee!
can you make a cup of tea?
They make delicious food in this restaurant!

These are some important expressions that you can use with make:

  • make
    ... arrangements
    ... an attempt
    ... bed
    ... believe
    ... change
    ... a choice
    ... a comment
    ... a complaint
    ... a decision
    ... a demand
    ... a difference
    ... an effort
    ... an exception
    ... an excuse
    ... an inquiry
    ... a fool of yourself
    ... a fortune
    ... friends
    ... a fuss
    ... a journey
    ... love
    ... a mess
    ... a mistake
    ... money
    ... a move
    ... a noise
    ... an offer
    ... peace
    ... a phone call
    ... a plan
    ... a point
    ... a profit
    ... a promise
    ... a remark
    ... a sound
    ... a speech
    ... a suggestion
    ... time
    ... a visit
    ... war

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