The differences between “make” and “do”

Here is one sentence appeared in the passage of National Geography, “They rolled and bounced, and you could do headers with them and make goals with them”. Some people may ask:”why the two words are used in this sentence?” (Do headers & Make goals)

These two words are most often used in English and the Chinese translations in the dictionary are the same “做”. They are used as transitive verb (Vt), but the word “do” is also used as intransitive verb (Vi), not “make”. The meaning and usages are different when they are both used as transitive verbs.

What are you doing? —你在干什么?

What are you making? —你在做什么东西?

Let us have a look at some phrases about these two words.

Do: do a/one’s job “做事”, do (one’s) home work “做功课”, do some reading “看点书”, do a summersault “翻跟斗”, do sums “做算术”, do one’s nails “修指甲”, do one’s best “尽最大的努力”, do wrong “做错事”.

  1. The car can do 180 kilometers per hour


  1. They did the journey in only two hours


  1. Have you done Paris yet?


  1. They did Hamlet again in this theatre.

她们在这家剧院又一次演出了 《哈姆雷特》。

Make: make shoes “制鞋”, make a mistake “犯错误”, make a decision “做出决定”, make arrangement “做出/进行安排”, make a fire “生火”, make trouble “捣乱”, make peace (with…) “与……讲和”, make friends (with…) “和……交朋友”, make way (for…) “给……让路”, make a sentence “造句”, make full use of “充分利用……”

  1. Two and three makes five


  1. One tree does not make a bridge.


  1. Can you make it?


“Do one’s bed” means “(早上起床时)铺床(叠好被子等)”

“Make one’s bed” means “(给自己)做一张床” 或者 “(晚上睡觉前放开被子的)铺床”

We can say “do one’s hair” (梳头), not “make one’s hair” to express that meaning.

From above examples and phrases, we notice that the word “do” lays stress on the process of the action, with the meaning of “干,担当,执行,进行,收拾,等”, like work. Its objects are one task or job. However, the “make” emphasis on the result of the action, with the meaning of “制造,做成,成功,构成,产生,引起, 等”, like produce, and its objects are always the productions or findings.

So in the first sentence, the “header” means “头球”, just a action, while the “goal” means “进球”, which is a result. That means the player has kicked the ball into the net.


Words translated by CCJK


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