What Is The Difference Between ‘do’ And ‘make’ (in English)?

Two verbs that are often confused. We explain how to distinguish and use them correctly.

English do make

Do. This verb can have a large number of fields of application and different connotations, although its meaning will almost always be linked to the activity.

For a Spanish speaker it can be easy to use this verb, especially considering that we use it for a wide variety of situations. However, when speaking another language we may find ourselves with a complication: finding ourselves with different words for aspects that our native language unifies.

This is the case with the verb to do and to make, which in a wide variety of situations can have an almost identical meaning when they refer to doing an action. ** “Doing something” or “Making something”? What is the difference between “to do” and “to make”? **

Main differences between the verbs “do” and “make”

The verbs “to do” and “to make” are similar in many ways. Both are irregular verbs that can be translated into Spanish as “do”, and that involve the development of some type of activity. It is not uncommon for speakers of other languages ​​to confuse the two verbs.

However, although it can be confusing and difficult to understand for a non-native speaker, the truth is that the verbs “to do” and “to make” have a series of characteristics that make them distinguishable. Next and throughout this article we will try to determine what these differences are.

1. Focus

Theoretically, the main difference between the two verbs is that the verb “to do” is used to talk about carrying out an activity, focusing on the fact of having carried it out, or to express general ideas. The use of “to make” is closer to the idea of ​​creating or elaborating something, focusing more on the result of the action. It is important to note that this is not always the case, but it does express the general trend. Some examples are the following:

  • I’m doing sport
  • He made the effort to come thought he was sick (He made the effort to come despite being sick)

2. Level of specificity

Another of the main differences can be found in that, as a general rule, the verb “to make” refers to a specific act or action, while “to do” refers to general and not very specific activities. Some examples are the following:

  • Do some thinking
  • I’m making some furniture for my house (I’m making some furniture for my house)

3. Product or non-product?

In both cases we are talking about carrying out some type of action. However, sometimes it is possible to observe that while the verb “to do” refers to the fact of doing an action itself, which usually does not end with the creation of something, the verb “to make” is used in those actions that have a palpable result in the form of some kind of product of the action, which may or may not be physical (we can, for example, speak of commitments and / or symbolic elements). For example:

  • She’s going to do some research
  • We once made a boat (Once we made a boat)

4. Auxiliary

The verb “to do” is often used as an auxiliary verb in other sentences where it does not have the actual meaning of “to do. Its use is frequent in interrogative phrases, placing more emphasis on the concrete action that will be carried out than on the fact of doing it itself. In fact, if we try to translate many sentences in English into Spanish, the verb “to do” is usually lost. The verb make tends to have greater prominence, and when used it is usually done to emphasize the fact of having performed an action or created something. Two examples of this are as follows.

I’m making a promise ”(I’m making a promise) Did you know that? (Did you know?)

5. Knowledge of what is happening

Linked to the level of specificity or generality, we can find that the verb “to do” can be used when talking about those actions of which we have no prior knowledge, the activity itself is not indicated or that have not appeared in the conversation until then. The verb “to make” generally refers to elements that are much more specific and that are marked in the conversation (even if it is at the same time the phrase is pronounced). To exemplify it, we leave two sentences:

  • She’s making money with this situation
  • I don’t know what to think about it (I don’t know what to think about it)

6. Reference to social aspects

The verb “to make” usually appears in those sentences in which we are talking about an interaction between two people or beings, whether or not they are conversational elements. For example promises, commitments, discussions … are some examples of situations in which the verb “to make” is often used. The “to do” tends to talk about more individual ideas, acts and elements. Three sentences, for example, could be the following:

  • I’m going to make a speech
  • We have a suggestion to make
  • I’m gonna do the dishes

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