Some French people seem to have trouble deciding when to use “make” and when to use “do” in their English communication. At first blush, this can be incomprehensible for an English mother tongue speaker. Why is it not intuitively clear, we may wonder, since to us, the choice is so obvious. But after thinking about it for a few seconds, one will quickly understand the difficulty. It  is not so bizarre as it would appear.

You see, the French have one verb that means “to make” and “to do.” That verb is “Faire.” Faire in french means “to make” and it also means “to do.” So to the French brain, these words are interchangeable. Not so with the English brain. “To make” is decidedly different from “to do.” And therein lies a pot of trouble.

One ultra cute French lawyer once said to me “I have to make the researches.” I looked at him blankly for a few seconds. What did he mean he has to “make” the “researches?” How does a person make a research or make researches? Are “researches” like a cake? One can “make” a cake; can one likewise “make” a research?  Closer scrutiny revealed two problems with his working brain on this particular issue. First, he had an issue with “countable nouns” which is beyond the scope of this post; but he also had an issue with when to use “make” and when to use “do.”


So when does one use “make?”

In English, one uses the verb to make when one is referring to the act of constructing something. “To make” means to construct, design, create, form. Clearly, one cannot “construct,” “design” or “create” or “form” “researches.”  (By the way, one can use the word “make” as a noun, for example, the make of the car was Audi which is another way of saying the brand of the car was Audi)

So for example, one can say, “The children made a circle.” This could either mean they drew or designed or created a circle with crayons or something such as that. But it could also mean they physically “formed” a circle by holding hands.

Another example: My brother made this house. This means he constructed the house. In some contexts it might even mean he designed the house. It would never mean he “formed” the house, though. One cannot “form” a house except perhaps with play dough or something like that.


When does one use “do?”

One uses the verb “to do” when one is referring to an action that connotes responsibility, “I must do the research before I can advise you,” for example.  In this sense it means I must physically carry out or produce research. The verb “to do” is usually used to refer to perform, to execute, to carry out, to produce.


CHALLENGE: Both “make” and “do” are action words and thus are both verbs. But the type of action, the way in which the action is performed, is different. “Do” is slightly more abstract than “make.” You cannot always see this verb being performed. For example: I must do my best.” But then again, “this makes sense,” is also abstract. You cannot see it being performed…Maybe French people have a point. Maybe deciding between “make” or “do” is not so simple after all?


Can you think of any examples when you would use make and when you would use do?




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