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011 The difference between Make & Do

The Difference between Do & Make


Hey everyone, thanks for joining me again. Now, I often get asked what is the difference between do and make, two verbs that are commonly confused.

Just last week one of my friends asked me to explain the difference to him and I thought the best way to help would be to prepare an episode on the difference between the two. So, here you have it, welcome to today’s podcast on the difference between Do & Make.

By the end of this episode you will understand the following:

  1. The difference between Make & Do
  2. Make & Do as collocations
  3. Make & Do in business expressions

How they are confused

Firstly the confusion lies in the fact that there is no distinction between Do and Make in Spanish, the verb is the same hacer.

It is important for language learners to understand where the problems arise. The main issue with Do and Make is the collocation of these verbs with nouns. For example, in Spanish, Tengo que hacer los deberes or Hacer una foto, both use the verb hacer. However, what I commonly see is the incorrect application of Make or Do.

These phrases are often translated to the following:

  1. I have to make the homework
  2. Do/make a photo

The above forms or collocations are incorrect. It is true that a native speaker will understand you, however it sounds very wrong.

Remember, collocations are words that naturally go together in English. Some collocations are very strong, meaning only one form is accepted. Others are weaker, where two or three forms are accepted.

If you want to review collocations then take a look at our previous episode on collocations here.

The correct form of the above phrases are:

  1. I have to do my homework
  2. Take a photo

We can clearly see two things. Firstly, “do” collocates with homework and secondly, take collocates with photo, not “do”, nor “make”.

The difference between the two

Let’s take a look at the basic difference between Make and Do.


In English, we use Make as a verb that is related to construction, fabrication, planning or production. So, when we use it, we need to try and remember it in this context. For example, “Make arrangements”. To make arrangements means to make plans or to organise something.


Regarding Do, basically, Do is used when talking about performing actions. For example, above we mentioned “Do your homework”. As you can see, this is a task that is being performed.


Even though this is a very basic difference between the two, unfortunately many mistakes arise because both Make and Do are used in a wide variety of fixed expressions or collocations. This means that as a learner you need to memorise them.

How to study them

What does this mean for my English? Well, it is really quite simple, you need to learn which words commonly collocate with Make and Do and start to practice them.

How can I learn these collocations? Well, again that is easy. As I have said on many occasions, the first thing to do is read, read, read! The second thing is to start studying Make and Do collocation lists. Let’s take a look at some now.

As I have mentioned in many previous episodes, the best way to learn them is in small groups. You can download a list of common collocations with Make and Do below. In the “cheat sheet”, I have also included a study guide.

From the study guide, you can see that as a strategy, we write down 5 collocations with Make and Do that we wish to memorise and implement in our business English every week. We can start to include them in our emails, conversations or presentations. Once we are comfortable using these 5 collocations then we select a further 5 and so on.

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Business collocation with Make and Do

Business Collocations with MakeExampleTranslation
make arrangements forThe business can make arrangements for employees to work from home.Arreglar
make a change / changesThe new manager is planning to make some changes.Corregir/hacer cambios
make a choiceJill had to make a choice between her career and her family.Escoger
make a comment / commentsWould anyone like to make any comments on the talk?Hacer un comentario
make a contribution toShe made a useful contribution to the discussion.Aportar
make a decisionI’m glad it’s you who has to make the decision, not me.Tomar una decisión
make an effortJoe is really making an effort to impress his boss.Esforzarse
make an excuseStop making excuses and finish the report.Disculpar
make friendsKaren is very good at making friends when she attends trade fairs.Hacerse amigos
make an improvementModifying the marketing strategy has really made an improvement to customer engagement.Mejorar
make a mistakeThey’ve made a mistake in our bill.Cometer un error
make a phone callI’ve got to make some phone calls before I leave the office.Hacer una llamada
make progressWe are making progress towards meeting our sales targets.Avanzar
make a complaintThe customers made a complaint about the quality of the service.Quejarse
make a fortuneJohn made a fortune on Bitcoin trading.Ganar una fortuna
make ends meetMary can barely make ends meet on her salary.Llegar al fin de mes
make the most ofWe need to make the most of this gap in the market.Aprovechar
make a pointI would just like to make the point that this has already been agreed.Decir algo importante


Business Collocations with DoExampleTranslation
do your bestAll that matters in the meeting is that you do your best.Hacer lo mejor que uno pueda
do damageThe product recall did some damage to our reputation.Dañar
do an experimentWe are doing an A/B experiment to test how customers react to the different offers.Experimentar
a job well doneOur boss values a job well done over speed.Un trabajo bien hecho
do someone a favourCan you do me a favour? I need your advice on this matter.Hacer un favor
do harmChanging the rules may do more harm than good.Hacer daño
do one’s dutyAll employees are required to do their duty for the sake of the company.Cumplir con su obligación
do one’s partWe ask that during the crisis, everyone does their part to increase sales.Cumplir con su parte
do researchThe company needs to do some market research before launching the new product.Investigar
do some workWe’ll do some work on our project and then we’ll go to the cinema.Trabajar
do good/badI am of the opinion that this will do more bad than good.Conseguir más mal que bien.

Final thoughts

So, in conclusion we can see that Make and Do are very commonly used in English. Furthermore, it is easy to start to learn the differences between the two. We only need to understand the basic difference, between producing and planning or carrying out a task. Finally, we can start to study Make and Do as collocations and fixed expressions. Once we know the translation and their use in context we can start to implement them into our daily Business English use.

As always, please like, share and comment on this episode. If you have any additional questions regarding the differences between Make and Do then please contact us on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/theaobe. You can also do some exercises to practice over at www.theartofbusinessenglish.com .

Till next time, take care and enjoy improving your business English.

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Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

Andrew Ambrosius

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