English Expressions with do and make

English Expressions and Mistakes with DO and MAKE

Did you know that do is one of the most commonly used verbs in the English language?* Also making the top 10 most commonly used verbs in English is make, so it’s obviously very important to understand and use these verbs correctly. Unfortunately for many English students, these two words are the same in several languages, including Spanish (hacer) and Portuguese (fazer), so they’re often used incorrectly when learning and speaking English. But I’ve got great news for you! Today’s lesson with not only teach you the differences, but also English expressions with do and make, as well as common mistakes to avoid.

We’ll kick off (*start*) this English lesson with this week’s 5 Minute English video. These videos are part of my online learning series helping you learn useful English information in a short period of time. They’re perfect for you if you need to learn on the go! Once you finish with the video, keep on reading below for more information, to read the example sentences, and get practice exercises!

Are you ready?

Do and Make

As I mentioned, do and make are commonly confused because of incorrect translations. Many languages use the same verb to mean make and do, so how do you know how to use these words correctly in English? First, it’s important to understand the basic differences between the two.

DO: completing an activity or performing a task

‘Do’ is often used with work or job related actions. Many nouns that have the word “work” in them will use the verb do, like homework. I need to do homework.

Other examples: I still have to do a lot of work before I go. He needs to do his job well for a promotion.

We also use ‘do’ to talk about housework, or cleaning. My husband always does the dishes and I do the laundry.

Other examples: They always do their chores on Sundays. It’s important to do vacuuming before mopping the floors.

Additionally, we use ‘do’ when talking about exercises because these are movement we need to complete. We do exercises.

Other examples: I always do core workouts on Tuesday and Thursdays. John does crunches and squats every day.

MAKE: constructing or creating something (often with our hands)

‘Make’ is used when we talk about constructing or creating something, often with our own hands. This thing does not exist and we build/construct or create it. I am going to make dinner. I am going to make a cake. My husband made our kitchen table.

Other examples: I am going to make dress for the party (I am going to sew it.). Oliver made my birthday gift last year, it was a beautiful ring.

English Expressions with Do and Make

Another reason do and make are confusing is because there are many (MANY) fixed expressions and collocations with do and make. These expressions and collocations don’t necessarily agree with the definitions I gave above, and are things you need to learn and memorize. I have not included all of the expressions and collocations because of time and length of this lesson. However, the video and extra examples in this blog post are a great place to start!

Expressions with DO

do research: I had to do research on language for my final thesis project.

Before you decide, do a little a research about it.

do business with someone: I do a lot of business with international clients.

Erin never does business with family and friends.

do (someone) a favor: I did my mom a huge favor last week. I helped her paint the house.

Oliver is so helpful, he is always doing favors for people.

do (good/bad/hard/extensive) work: If you want a raise, you must do good work.

The teacher told the class they would get a reward if they all did their best work.

do a (good/bad/decent/OK) job: My students always do a good job.

The painter did an awful job on the house.

do (one’s) hair: Before we go out, we often have to do our hair.

Jane likes when Sam does her hair because it looks better.

do (one’s) makeup: Before we go out, we often have to do our makeup.

Donna never does her makeup before school.


do an assignment/project: We have to do our assignment tonight because it’s due tomorrow.

do the shopping: My mom does the shopping on Sundays.

do (one’s) best= to try one’s hardest: Sarah always does her best in class.

do damage=to cause harm: Alex did a lot of damage when he spoke badly about his boss.

Expressions with MAKE

make a mistake: Many students make mistakes with do and make.

It’s common to make a mistake when learning new languages.

make an effort: However, if they make an effort, it’s easy to learn and they will improve.

Learning a language is difficult and it requires people to make an effort.

make a difference=to cause a positive change: Volunteers often make a big difference in various charities and organizations.

Simple acts of kindness can make a huge difference.

make a choice: I made a choice to move to a new city.

It’s not always easy to make the right choice.

make a decision: I made a great decision when I married my husband.

It’s important to know what you need and make the right decisions.

make sense: Is this information making sense?

The information was clear and made sense.

make someone (feel a) feeling: You make me so happy when you learn with me and watch my videos.

I hope I make you motivated to learn!


make a fortune=earn a lot of money: Lucy made a fortune selling her photographs and artwork.

make a suggestion=to give advice: Mark’s essay was incomplete, so his teacher made a few suggestions to help.

make the bed: I make my bed every morning.

make plans: I haven’t made plans for the weekend yet.

English Mistakes with Do and Make: Avoid these!

Many students translate words and expressions for their native languages to English, which creates a lot of mistakes when speaking in English. This is why I never recommend translating! However it happens, and maybe you do it. So here are some common mistakes with do and make to avoid:

to make a barbecue or a party → to have a barbecue or a party: I am having a barbecue next week. I am having a party next week.

to make a question → to ask a question: The teacher asked the students a question

to make a road trip→ to take a road trip: Next year I am taking a cross-country road trip.

to make a test/exam → to take a test/exam: Last year I took a very important test.

Practice Exercises

Practice makes perfect! Review the sentences above to understand how to use do and make correctly in English. I recommend reading the sentences out loud to practice pronunciation, and trying to create your own sentences with your own life/personal context. Additionally, try these exercises below. All of the answers are

Fill in the blanks: Complete the following sentences with the correct form of DO or MAKE. Pay attention to the time tenses and structure!

You can find the answers below
  1. We all need to ________ our best to succeed.
  2. I need to pass the TOEFL test to get into my college so I am _______ it next week.
  3. I think it’s important to __________ a difference, so I volunteer 2 times per month.
  4. Jason met someone he was interested in _________ business with.
  5. It ______ my grandma happy when I called her every week.

Discussion questions: Use these questions to practice what you’ve learned today and improve conversational skills.

  1. What’s the most important decisions you’ve ever made?
  2. Did you do any important projects last week? If so, what was it?
  3. Have you ever made a mistake that you’ve regret?
  4. How do you understand a word or phrase that doesn’t make sense in English?
  5. What’s the last favor you did for someone? What’s the last favor someone did for you?

In this video, I mentioned offering private Skype lessons. Please check my website for current opportunities and training options.


*Word Frequency Stats from Word Frequency Data
FILL IN THE BLANK ANSWERS:  1) do  2) taking**  3) make  4) doing  5) makes


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  1. edumaris on April 17, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    Hi Jennifer can you explain all meaning and uses of the word “set”. Thanks you so much!!!

  2. edumaris on April 17, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Jennifer please can you explain all meaning and uses of the word “set”. Thanks you so much I am Edumarian on Instagram I ever saw you!!!

  3. Mrs. khadejah on December 17, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    It’ s a very useful lesson to me since my student asking about the difference between them . thank you, I’m so happy to join your lesson .

    • Jennifer Nascimento on December 19, 2016 at 10:58 pm

      I am happy to help! Your students are welcome to review my lessons when they need. Thanks for sharing my content!

  4. Md. Abdul Motalab on December 13, 2016 at 5:15 am

    The lesson is very useful for the students who learn English as EFL.

    • Jennifer Nascimento on December 19, 2016 at 6:20 pm

      I am happy you enjoyed it! Feel free to share it with someone else who might find it useful. Thanks!

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