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Do vs. Make: What's the Difference?

Do vs. Make: What's the Difference?

“Make” and “do” are two very common English verbs. You are probably used to using them both often, but you may not know how many different ways they can be used. So in this article, we’ll look at both words in detail and introduce their many practical uses for daily conversation.


A pencil and a notepad with a To Do list written on it

Let's begin with "do." It means "to perform an action" and it's often used to talk about a process or something that takes time to complete (for example, homework, chores, a job or task).

I can’t talk now — I’m doing my homework.
Did you do all of your chores?
You all did a good job on this project.
Please do it quickly.

We use "do" to ask about careers.

What do you do?
I'm an engineer.

It's also used to talk about general activities or things that are not specific.

It's my day off, so I'm not doing anything today.
Why are you just standing there? Do something!
We didn't do a lot during our vacation — we just relaxed!
My coworker never helps, so I have to do everything by myself.
Hey, you! What are you doing over there?

Other uses of “do”

There are many activities you can express by using "do" together with specific nouns. Unfortunately, you have to memorize them because there is no rule for them all!

A favor

Can you do me a small favor?

Types of exercise

I've been doing yoga for six years. It makes me feel great!
We do pilates twice a week.

Laundry, the dishes (= to clean)

Whose turn is it to do the dishes?
A group of people doing karate on a beach

Martial arts (karate, Taekwondo, kickboxing, etc.)

I used to do kickboxing, but now I do kung fu.

Gymnastics and athletic movements

She is very athletic because she's done gymnastics her whole life.
My little brother can do a backflip.

Hair and nails (= to style, decorate or design)

Saya does my hair. I've been going to her salon for years.
It costs her a lot of money to get her nails done professionally.

Some people also use "do" for makeup, but "put on" is more common.

I need to do my makeup. Please wait a few minutes.

We use "play" for games, but "do" for puzzles!

Want to do this puzzle with me?

Time (= spend time in jail)

The thieves were caught by the police and had to do three years in jail as punishment.

One's best

We'll do our best, coach!

In action and adventure movies, you may hear the hero tell the villain, “Do your worst!” This means “Hurt me as much as you can” or “I will never give up, no matter what you do.” Dramatic!

There are also "dos and don'ts," which are lists of things you should and should not do in a specific place or situation.

Dos and Don'ts When Visiting Japan
Do remove your shoes before entering someone's home.
Don't use chopsticks to point at anything.


A chef in a restaurant presenting a plate of pasta he made

While "do" is often used to talk about a process, "make" refers to an object or the result of a process (like a meal, a sweater, a business plan, a decision).

He made a nice meal for everyone. It was tasty!
She’s making a sweater for her nephew.
We’ll make a business plan before looking for investors.
I’ve made my decision — I’m moving to Canada.

"Do" would be incorrect in these sentences.

Another important use of "make" is the meaning "to force someone to do something."

My mother made me eat all of my vegetables before I could have a piece of cake.
His boss made him stay late at the office.

Other uses of “make”

Compared to "do," many ways of using "make" are figurative, which means "used in a different way than its normal meaning."


She makes a lot of money at her new job.


He isn't shy, so it's very easy for him to make new friends.

An impression

He really made a good impression on everyone at the party.

Fun (of someone or something) (= to tease or joke about)

My friends made fun of my new haircut.

Love (= have sex)

She has never made love to anyone.

A joke

Don't make jokes about this — this is serious.


He's always making excuses for why he's late.

Time (for something) (= reserve time for a specific activity)

She always makes time to read in the evenings.
A group of people with various instruments making music


We've been making music together since high school.

A mess

The kids made a big mess in the living room.

Up one’s mind (= decide)

We need a decision. Have you made up your mind?

An appointment

(be on time) The meeting is in 10 minutes! Can we make it?
(attend, go to) I'm sorry, but I won't be able to make it to the party this weekend.

Had enough?

That's a lot of uses! Of course, it's important to improve your vocabulary with new words, but it's also important to understand all of the ways the most basic words can be used. "Do" and "make" are two of the simplest English verbs, but look at how many uses they have! Mastering these will really help you to improve your fluency in everyday conversation.