To Make or To Do

One of the biggest problems that Catalan and Spanish speaking students of English have is to decide how they translate from Catalan or Spanish an expression that begins with “fer” or “hacer.”  These expressions usually (but not always…fer un viatge / hacer un viaje = to take a trip) go with “to do” or with “to make.”  However, there is no set rule.  These are idiomatic expressions, but there are ways to make it easier.

First:

Memorize only one list.  For example, there are probably more expressions with “to make” than with “to do,” so concentrate on those that use “to do”

Second:

“To do” expressions can be divided into general categories

a)    Things that have to do with housework

  • To do the housework
  • To do the washing-up
  • To do the laundry
  • To do the dishes
  • To do the shopping

*Famous exception… to make the bed

b)   Things that have to do with working or studying

  • To do work
  • To do homework
  • To do business
  • To do a report
  • To do a course (you can also say “to take a course”)

c)    Things that have to do with the body

  • To do exercise
  • To do your hair
  • To do your nails

d)   Things with good or bad

  • To do a good / great / terrible job
  • To do well
  • To do badly
  • To do good
  • To do the right thing
  • To do you best

If you decide to memorize expressions with “to make” there are also some general rules that will help you

First:

If you cannot remember which word goes with the expression, you can substitute with a verb that means the same thing.  This is especially true of expressions with “to make”

  • To make a call                               … to call
  • To make a change                        … to change
  • To make a choice                         … to choose
  • To make a complaint                   … to complain
  • To make a comment                    … to comment
  • To make a decision                       … to decide
  • To make a mistake                        … to be mistaken
  • To make a plan                              … to plan

Second:

Like with “to do” there are general categories

a)    Food and drink

  • To make a cup of coffee / tea
  • To make breakfast
  • To make lunch
  • To make dinner
  • To make supper
  • To make a snack

b)   “To make” is used to refer to the material something is made of

  • Made of plastic
  • Made of metal
  • Made of gold

c)    Things having to do with money

  • To make money
  • To make a profit
  • To make a fortune

d)   Things having to do with personal relationships

  • To make friends

e)    Things having to do with communication

  • To make a phone call
  • To make a joke
  • To make a point
  • To make a bet
  • To make a complaint
  • To make a confession
  • To make a speech
  • To make a suggestion
  • To make a prediction
  • To make an excuse
  • To make a promise
  • To make a comment
  • To make a decision
  • To make a mistake
  • To make progress
  • To make a list
  • To make sure

Written by Mike Dean Alger for Aston School

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