Grammar: Make and Do / Tell and Say

Make and Do

Many English learners find it hard to differentiate between make and do. However, if you learn the following rule it will be a lot clearer:


1. You use "make" with nouns referring to:

Food and Drink
Speaking and Sounds
A cup of tea
Some coffee
A meal
 A sandwich

  • I made the decision to go on holiday in July
  • This morning I made myself a sandwich to eat at lunchtime
  • My boss made a comment about the way I dress
  • We'll make a short trip to the beech if we have time


Some common expressions with "make":

To make friends (with) / To make a mistake / To make a difference / To make some money / To be made of / Two and two make four / To make a contract / To make a good footballer / To make happy (angry, sad, etc.)


2. You use "do" with "-ing forms" and with words in relation to work.

  • I do the ironing every Wednesday
  • He does all the shopping and I do the washing
  • I have a lot of work to do


You often use "do" with a noun instead of another verb if the meaning is clear:

  • You must do your hair = You must brush your hair
  • Have you done the dishes yet? = Have you washed the dishes yet?


Some common expressions with "do":

To do well (badly, better, worse) / To do your homework / To do an exercise




Tell and Say

Remember the following rule:

To tell somebody something

To say something to somebody


"Tell": If you say who you are talking to

  • I told him that I couldn't go to the concert
  • She told me she wanted to cut her hair


Otherwise we use "say":

  • Karren said that she liked cats
  • We said goodbye to the postman


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