Make and Do

ü  DO presents a process and MAKE presents a product, be it material or intangible.

ü  DO means an action is carried out until it is complete.

ü  MAKE means that parts or ingredients have been put together into a whole.

ü  DO shows that something is prepared for later use.

ü  MAKE means that something is brought into existence.

Do and Make

Image generously designed by Diana Lucía Gómez.


In the previous entry of this English blog aimed at native Spanish speakers we saw the uses of “Say” and “Tell”, two verbs that can both be translated into Spanish as “Decir”. This time we will explore some of the main applications of “Do” and “Make”, both of which can in turn be translated as “Hacer”. We will not see every single form of these verbs because it would take ages; “Do” and “Make” are some of those words that use up several pages in any decent dictionary along with “Get”, “Set” and “Be”.

First things first: debunking the myth. In high school, many of us were told that “Do” was used for intellectual actions and “Make” for material actions. It sounds plausible and the explanation is not without a degree of logic to it. Our English teachers had to deal with 40, even 50 students in a single class, so, ready-made and incontestable capsules of information were preferred over long exploration processes that fostered autonomous learning. Classical teaching methods didn’t have any time for such things in their tight, fact-packed curricula.

Let’s understand this, then: “Do” can many times work like “Perform”. “Do” presents a process that is practically a routine, whether it’s successful or not is of no interest. Take this example: my mother has been a housewife for 30 years and she has never learned how to cook. When she boils water it gets stuck to the pot, pop corn tastes like chicken and the chicken flies headless out of the kitchen choosing to get run over by a garbage truck before being stewed by my loving mother. So:


My mother does the cooking at home.


The fact that she doesn’t cook well –there is no success in the action- doesn’t stop her from cooking every day. To talk about routines, we use “DO” and a verb in the –ING form with an article (“the” if we refer to the action in general) or a quantifier (“some”, “a little”, “a lot of” if we are referring to doing the action in a specific case).


I have been doing a lot of ironing since my butler quit.

“Make” can show us the product of a process. Look at the yellow rabbit in the image and you will find a couple of examples: the rabbit does the cooking at home (it’s a routine process for him) and the rabbit made dinner (it’s the product). He did some thinking (process) and finally he made a decision (product). This product can be material as well as intangible, that is indeed case-specific; the fact that “Make” can also be a synonym for “Manufacture” doesn’t restrict its meaning.

“Make” has to do with creation: we put parts or ingredients together to bring something new into existence. For instance, I have eggs and cheese and by mixing them I can make an omelette au fromage. I have vinegar, baking soda and sugar and by mixing them I can make a small volcano (I bet you didn’t know that!)

“Do” also tells us that something is being prepared to be used later. So, you do the laundry, later the clothes will be clean and you can wear them. You do the dishes after dinner so they’re dry tomorrow morning.

When an action or an event is carried out until completion, we use “Do”. So, my cousin Mildred did her high school studies in Juneau, Alaska. This means that even her prom took place in Juneau, Alaska.


Well, that’s it for “Make” and “Do”. Remember these simple yet crucial applications and make them part of your everyday speech and communicative techniques; you’ll see dramatic improvement in your fluency and accuracy. If you have any question and/or comment, I’ll be only too happy to read from you. If you feel you need further clarity on these verbs, ask. For now, this will have to make do!


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