Just Do It (or Make It)?

Do it and make it look easy!

Photo: He decided to do it, but will he make it?


Knowing what to do with "make" and "do" can make a big difference in the ideas you express. If you follow the basic rules when choosing between the verbs do and make, you will make very few mistakes and usually do it right.

two male youth competing to hit a volleyball while straddling the shoulders of teammates
He did it before his opponent and won the game for his team.


 

To DO is more general than to MAKE and means (1) to achieve or (2) to execute a task under any circumstances including but not limited to ability.


To MAKE is less general than to DO and means (1) to arrive or (2) achieve or execute a task, and (3) both with results unique to the maker's choices or circumstances.


To DO is less creative and usually means simply executing very predictable actions as a matter of routine or ability, not just creativity. Although you can do something creative, the result of doing something creative is making something unique.


Example: When you do lunch together, you meet someone at lunchtime, but the food is not the primary reason for or focus of the meeting.

Let's do lunch and discuss the company's budget.
two co-workers looking over documents at a patio cafe
They did lunch and found all the mistakes that they made in the company's budget record.

To MAKE is usually more creative than To DO and usually means creating something or producing results more unique to the maker's choices.


Example: When you “make lunch,” you (1) create a meal or (2) arrive for lunch.

Hands finely chopping raw vegetables
The company's chef is making a delicious meal for us for our lunch meeting.

a wrist watch showing 12:17pm
He did not make it to lunch on time.

 
To DO is used to mean to complete a task in the simplest sense regardless of ability or circumstances although ability and circumstances may be factors.

Do is broader and more general. It covers almost everything and can be used as a default over "make." It could refer to capability--or whether or not something is possible at all.

  • I hope there is a job that I can do.

  • Can you do the early morning shifts on weekends?

  • We do a few things around the house on the weekends.

  • What do you want to do about this problem?

 
Sometimes Americans ask, "Can you make it tomorrow?" or say "He can't make it tomorrow." What does this mean?

The phrase "can't make it" can mean unable to arrive at some point at the right time or for the right result and is based on the subject's unique and variable circumstances.

  • He does play the piano very well, but he can't make it (arrive) this evening to play for us.

  • He didn't answer enough of the questions correctly to pass the test. Without studying, he didn't make it into the program.

  • His health was very poor, so although he wanted to travel in the spring, he did not make it through (survive) the cold winter. (He wanted to do it, but he did not make it.)