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Make and do can be used in 3 different ways. First, we can make our own expressions with make and do according to their basic meanings. Second, there are fixed expressions that we cannot change. And third, phrasal verbs.

The first category is probably the most important because it’s very flexible and we can make our own expressions.

So, make means that you are creating something. For example, you ‘make a cup of coffee’, or you ‘make a plan’. You are creating them. They didn’t exist before and now they do.

The main meaning of do is being engaged in an activity. For example, doing the housework.

Compare these sentences:

‘What are you doing?’ ‘I am making a cake.’

The second category is fixed expressions that we cannot change. Most of the time they are related to the first category. For example, ‘do business’ because business is an activity that you do every day. But ‘make a profit’. Profit is something that you create while doing business.

Sometimes we use both make and do with little or no change in the meaning: Every morning, I make my bed / I do my bed. Usually we have this option when we talk about everyday activities.

Sometimes both make and do are possible but with a change in meanings:

Teachers make exercises for their students (create the exercise). The students do the exercise in class (as an activity). So the teachers create them, and the students do them as an activity.

The third category is phrasal verbs with make and do. Of course, this is a large category with a lot of phrasal verbs. I’ll give you a couple of examples:

To do away / to make away

To do up / to make up

And there are lots of lots other expressions.

Exercise. Put the expressions in the correct column.