Do and make are two English verbs that are seemingly interchangeable, but can cause non-native speakers problems. Some of this has to do with translation (faire = to do, to make). There are also many fixed expressions using one or the other, but there are some differences which can help non-native speakers make the right verb choice.

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Do – for work, tasks, or a catch-all verb to describe a vague activity.

  • What are you doing?
  • I have so much to do today! How will I ever get it done?

Make – this verb is used to talk about building, constructing, or creating something.

  • What are you making? I am designing a 3D model.
  • I have so much to make today, said Michaelangelo. (Perhaps a silly example, but it illustrates context. Who is performing the activity? In this case: an artist, a creator. How does he view that activity: as a task or as a creation?

Which one would you choose?

I do not like to ____ grammar exercises. (do / make)

  • Answer: do. This activity is homework, a task, or an assignment.

_____ small talk is the one thing I hate most about cocktail parties. (Doing / making)

  • Answer: making. To make small talk or making small talk is a fixed expression to describe the act of thinking up conversation topics at a business or social event to pass the time and meet people. Though some may consider it a “hated task,” it does involve creativity and producing results!

Nike’s slogan: Just ____ it! (do / make)

  • Answer: do. Finish the activity. Go all the way. It could apply to sport, work, or anything.

Volunteer slogan: ­­­­­_____ a difference in student’s life. Be a mentor today! (Do / Make)

  • Answer: Make. The expression “make a difference” refers to playing an important role in a person’s life or facilitating a positive change.

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