Make & Do

Welcome back,

As an English teacher (oops I’m officially a trainer so slap my wrists..)  you often get queried on make and do. When is it ‘make’, when is it ‘do’? So let’s try and work out this conundrum.

Anyone who reckons they know the answer to this is usually outgunned by exceptions. That’s one of the problems with English, we just can’t stick to the rules. Now, that’s funny coming from a country which prides itself on playing by the rules; don’t argue with the umpire, don’t jump queues and don’t drop fag ends in the urinals.

Make & Do sounds like one of those 1970s kids’  TV programmes and like such seminary shows such as Trumpton, Blue Peter & the Magic Traffic Circle (no wonder it never took off stateside!) it should really be child’s play to consenting adults.

But it ain’t. Even the most dim witted trainees can catch us geniuses of the mother-tongue out on a regular basis. Just when you think you’ve fooled them all for another week and pounded them into submission with your conjugations and prognostic adverbial time clauses, the blasted people will back you into a corner and over a barrel in no time. The only way out is invariably having to fob them off with the recycled by-products of a cow’s lunch.

So one frequently resorts to gut feeling. The experts and pedagogues will tell you that ‘make”  generally signifies produce, manufacture, bring into existence while ‘do’ refers to processes and actions.

So bearing this in mind let’s analyse…

Have I made a mistake yet? In this utterance, one must consider a mistake as being produced; fair cop guv, but how can you touch something which is a mistake? Unless you’re a teenage mother perhaps. I like to think of produced things to be solids. Watery at a push but at least visible.

Now your trainees might write like amputee orangutans sometimes but you can certainly discern their mistakes on  paper whereas you can’t physically touch their verbal spoutings. Well on second thoughts who would want to?

It’s enough to make you sick.

What about ‘making’ friends for instance? I wouldn’t entirely count it out in this high-tech world of ours but I’d say that making friends is usually a process; of communication, trust, elimination and thorough examination. It takes time and effort and can’t just be ‘brought into existence’

Unless you are god. Did god get bored one day sitting on his cloud all alone? ‘Think I’ll make some new pals’, abracadabra, a bit of spit and polish and so were Adam & Eve…

No, no, no, in my book, finding friends requires more than that so I’d rather we  just did new friends.

Moving swiftly on: another contentious phrase that can throw up all sorts of issues is one regarding sex.

Without wishing to be voyeuristic, this is not a topic for the feeble-minded, although I feel strongly that it shouldn’t be overlooked. Granted, there’s certainly no harm in it being overdone…

Right, so why do we make love? Before you get all biological, I mean this in the purely grammatical sense.  Provided that we’re not discussing reproduction (the possible end product) or something which is over in the blink of an eye (imagine a nervous cockroach on acid), then making love must be observed as, if not a process then definitely an activity. Extra-curricular even..

I mean, you’d have to be someone the calibre of  Barry White to come home, swagger into the bedroom & suggest ‘Let’s do love baby…’

There’s no need to keep banging on about this. I believe I’ve stated my case here for this irritable English grammar point to be discarded forever and consigned to the rainy-day box.

If anyone has any further questions on this matter, don’t ask me, I’m all spent.

You’ll just have to make do….



Filed under TEFL

2 responses to “Make & Do

  1. You beat me to the punch line with your “make do” finish. 😀 I think it’s a sign of the times that either of them can be used sexually. To “do” someone, of course is a rather crass–and grammatically boring way to describe “making love”, but the connotation is that no love was made, and in that sense it is often the more appropriate of the terms to use. “Do” is the more common of the two, ranking third in most common English words (“make” is sixth). Perhaps this reflects the ideal that the practical is more valuable than the aesthetic? Just a few thoughts. Perhaps they’ll make your day? 😉

    • aye, that it did.. confuses the French.. they only have “faire”.. although they “faire dodo” which means “go to sleep”.. kind of a double do.. enjoyed your feedback 😉

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