Advice and teaching suggestions of how to overcome the confusion between 'make' and 'do.'

Exercise 1

Look at the two lists - the first one with examples of do and the second with examples of make. What do the do examples have in common in terms of meaning, and what do the make examples have in common?

I'm bored – I've got nothing to do.
I'm going to do the shopping.
What do you do for a living?
I'm doing a course at the local college.
I feel stiff – I need to do some exercise.
I hate doing housework.
I did history at university.
I've got an uncle who makes model planes.
I made history at university – I got the lowest grades ever recorded!
I make furniture for a living.
The kids always make a lot of work for me.
Made in the UK.
Shall I make some tea?
What kind of wood is this box made of?
Make a hole in the ice.
Can I make a suggestion?
Nobody's listening until you make a mistake.
It was a difficult decision to make.
Don't make so much noise!
Can I make an appointment for next week?
I need to find a way of making some money fast.
Come today or tomorrow – it won't make any difference.

Suggested answer: The do examples are all connected with performing an activity, and the make examples are connected with producing or creating something – bringing into existence something that wasn't there before. These are particularly common uses of these two verbs.

The Macmillan English Dictionary divides the uses of make into 11 main categories. The following exercise makes use of categories and examples from the dictionary; of course you could also use your own examples, perhaps based on mistakes your learners have made.