to make / to do

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by vince, Apr 29, 2006.

  1. vince Senior Member

    Los Angeles, CA
    Hello all,

    I'm wondering which languages have a make/do distinction.

    Some languages have a single word that means both "to make" and "to do". For example, Spanish "hacer", French "faire", Mandarin 做 ("zuo").

    Whereas some languages, like English, have two words. I think Cantonese also has this distinction, 做 ("zo") means "to do" while "zing" means "to make" (among other meanings).

    Which languages have the make-do distinction?

    I'm pretty sure all languages have some alternate words used to emphasize the difference, e.g. French you can say "produire" (to produce) or "fabriquer" (to manufacture), or "créer" (to create) in order to indicate the "to make" meaning of "faire", but it doesn't count as a true make-do distinction because the core verb for to make/do is still a single verb.
  2. macta123 Senior Member

    In Hindi

    To make (something) = Banana
    To do (something) = Karna

    For eg. Make some tea = Chai banao (as an order - imperative)
    Do your work = Kaam karo
  3. Lemminkäinen

    Lemminkäinen Senior Member

    Oslo, Norway
    Norwegian (bokmål)
    Norwegian Bokmål:

    To make: å lage
    To do: å gjøre

    Norwegian Nynorsk:

    To make: å lage
    To do: å gjere
  4. optimistique Senior Member


    to make = maken
    to do = doen

    So not very different;)
  5. linguist786 Senior Member

    Blackburn, England
    English, Gujarati & Urdu
    haha "Banana". so how do you say "to make a banana"? Banana banana? lol that does make sense doesn't it? although when on earth would you need to say that anyway? people can't make bananas, they grow themselves! moving on..


    to make - Banaaw-waanu
    to do - Kar-waanu

    similar to the hindi actually.
  6. Mutichou Senior Member

    France - French
    In German:
    to do = tun
    to make = machen.
  7. In Turkish you have yapmak and etmek. I think it would be:

    etmek = to do
    yapmak = to make

    but I'm not entirely sure!
  8. Pivra Senior Member

    In Thai

    To do= tam
    Did, Done, to act = kratam
    To make= phlit (ph= soft p)
  9. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual

    There are exceptions of course, but generally

    to do = فعل (fa'ala)
    to make = صنع (Sana'a)
  10. chuff

    chuff Senior Member

    In Romanian, the verb a face can mean both
    but i know that Romanian has a distinction somewhere...
  11. Brazilian dude Senior Member

    Portuguese - Brazil
    In Portuguese we have fazer for both do and make.

    Brazilian dude
  12. kamome

    kamome Senior Member

    amalfi - italy
    italian - italy
    Italian, too, shows several "alternative" expressions, mostly similar to the ones you listed for your French samples, Vince...PRODURRE, REALIZZARE, CREARE and so on, actually to emphasize or precise a path of some DOING SOMETHING...but the main and wider spoken range, as you said, is totally coveder by the all-suitable FARE, and I myself wouldn't say these options are a real "distinction".
  13. Whodunit

    Whodunit Senior Member

    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    No, that's wrong. "to do" means "machen" or "tun", and "to make" is "herstellen".

    to do homework - Hausaufgaben machen
    to make a toy - ein Spielzeug herstellen

    "tun" is often used as an auxiliary verb, colloquially, but it's rarely used in other cases.
  14. Bienvenidos

    Bienvenidos Senior Member

    I like whodunit's examples, so here they are in Farsi:

    I do homework - Muh korkhonagí míconum
    I make a toy - Muh soman júrmíconum

    Júrkudan is to fix or to make.Thus, Muh machina júrmíconum means I fix the machine, not I make the machine

  15. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I think "herstellen" is too specific a translation; it works only in specific situations (to mean "to make"). Obviously there are exceptions but in most cases "machen" works as a translation of "to make." Just look at the etymological similarity between the two words!
  16. vince Senior Member

    Los Angeles, CA
    herstellen doesn't count as "to make" because it's too specific. Otherwise every language has a make/do distinction. Spanish has crear/producir/realizar, French has créer/produire/realiser, etc. But these words mean "to create"/ "to produce" / "to achieve/realize"

    If someone asked you how to say "to make" in German, you would probably answer "machen" right away, not herstellen.

    The fact that you can say Hausaufgaben machen proves that German doesn't have a make/do distinction. How can you "make" homework?

    Etymological similarity sometimes doesn't work, as word meanings can change. e.g. the ancient word *prendere means "to take" in French but "to capture/arrest" in Spanish.
  17. Whodunit

    Whodunit Senior Member

    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    Of course, but that means that we don't have a word that means "make". There are some situations in which you can translate "make" and "machen", but in many you can't - and vice versa.

    I'd rather say "machen" works as a perfect translation for "do". Just think of examples with "tun". Would you prefer "tun" or "machen" in writing? In spoken language, of course, we often use "tun", but not in situations in which you could use "machen" instead.

    Moreover, the Arabic word "fa3ala" is always translated as "machen" to German, whereas I have never seen a dictionary that translates it as "to make" to English. They use "to do". And German dictionaries usually don't suggest "tun" for "fa3ala". :)

    That's irrelevant. Etymological similarity doesn't mean that the words have the same meaning. "actual" and "aktuell" are totally different in meaning, for instance. ;)
  18. optimistique Senior Member

    Well, in Dutch this gets tricky. To make is certainly 'maken' and to do is certainly 'doen'. But:

    To do your homework = Je huiswerk maken

    In Dutch the translations are often the other way around in expressions.
    How do you do? - Hoe maakt u het?
  19. Brazilian dude Senior Member

    Portuguese - Brazil
    I can think of another one in Dutch:

    This doesn't have anything to do with that.
    Dit heeft niets te maken met dat.

    Brazilian dude
  20. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Hungarian: we do have two verbs

    do > tesz
    make > csinál
  21. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    Add Greek among Spanish, French, and Mandarin. In Greek, both to do & to make are translated as «κά(μ)νω» ['ka(m)no] < Classical v. «κάμνω» kámnō --> to work, wrought
    It has nothing to do with.. --> «Δεν έχει τίποτα να κάνει με..»
    I'm making some changes in my life --> «Κάνω κάποιες αλλαγές στη ζωή μου»
    Also, depending on context, we can use different verbs for each action.
  22. arielipi Senior Member

    Hebrew has interchangeable verb(s) for it.

    make: ליצור, לברוא litzor (=make from materials, or from mind for art), livro (=create as in god create). and many more specific make verbs.

    do: לעשות la'asot - general do, can be replaced by any of the specific make verbs.
  23. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    In Ancient Greek, wasn't the verb práttein (the basis of practice, pragmatic, etc.) used in the sense of English "do" rather than "make"?

    I think the verb poieîn (as in onomatopoeia, etc.) could mean both "make" and "do", but was it the most common verb for the latter meaning?
  24. aruniyan Senior Member

    To make - Pannu (comes from the word Pani(work), which comes from the sense working under some, to accept what others say/order(Paninthu). The Hindi word banana also could be this origin.

    To do - Sei (older word also could mean 'to make')
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2013
  25. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    to make in Tagalog is "Gawain" while to do can be " gampanan" in some cases.1.) Make a small furniture out of these native materials. (Gumawa ng gamit pang pahay mula sa mga kagamitang Sibol (o taal sa atin). 2.) Can you do what they did.? (magagampanan mo ba ang nagawa nila?)
  26. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    Yes indeed it was used as the English do, e.g:
    «Ἄριστα πράττει»
    S/he's doing it right
    Indeed the verb «ποιέω/ποιῶ» pœéō (uncontracted)/pœô (contracted) means both general senses, make and do, e.g:
    «ἀπὸ ξύλων ποεῖν» --> to make (something) of wood
    «ποιεῖν Σπαρτιατικά» --> doing it the Spartan way.
    Τhe use of the suffix «-ποιῶ» demonstrates ΙΜΗΟ that the meaning of making, prevails over doing:
    «Τελειοποιῶ» --> To make something perfect
    «Ποιητής» --> Poet (the maker)
    «Ποιήσωμεν ἄνθρωπον» (LXX) --> Let us make man (Gen. 1:26 NKJV)
  27. tFighterPilot Senior Member

    Israel - Hebrew
    Also there's להכין lehakhin which can mean "To do" (I think only in regard to homework), "To make" (A soup, a bomb, etc) and "To prepare".
  28. arielipi Senior Member

    all of which are under the "many more specific make verbs."
  29. tFighterPilot Senior Member

    Israel - Hebrew
    I think לברוא is much more specific, especially given the fact that it isn't used in modern Hebrew at all...
  30. arielipi Senior Member

    same answer applies.
  31. Red Arrow :D

    Red Arrow :D Senior Member

    Dutch - Belgium
    [Moderator's Note: Merged with a previous thread]
    Does your language make a difference between 'to make' and 'to do'?

    In Dutch it's almost the same as in English.
    I'm making spaghetti. - Ik maak spaghetti. (making = maken)
    I'm doing my job. - Ik doe mijn werk. (doing = doen)

    There is one exception, when you 'make' someone do something. Then we use doen, not maken.
    He's making me wash his car. - Hij doet me zijn auto wassen.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 4, 2016
  32. 810senior

    810senior Senior Member


    to do : sur-u(s-irregular verb)
    to make : tsukur-u(regular verb)
  33. Dymn Senior Member

    Catalan, Catalonia
    In Catalan, like all other Romance languages, there's only one verb: fer.
  34. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    As a German learner, I know these two verbs do exist, but it is not the same as in English. Machen seems to be used with both meanings and tun has some completely different meanings like to put. Knowing the very clear and precise difference between the two verbs in English actually makes German much more difficult and complex to figure out.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2016
  35. Holger2014 Senior Member

    Yes, they seem to be used very differently in both languages. The explanations in #13 and #17 are perhaps helpful as a rule of thumb but on the other hand there are still many exceptions. These are just some examples:
    I didn't have anything else to do = Ich hatte nichts anderes zu tun
    A has nothing to do with B = A hat nichts mit B zu tun
    to do someone a favour = jemandem einen Gefallen tun
    We can't do anything about it ~ Da können wir nichts (tun)/machen
    I'll do that straight away = Das tu'/mach' ich sofort
    He is doing his homework = Er macht seine Hausaufgaben
    What do you do (for a living)? = Was machen Sie (beruflich)?
    To do overtime = Überstunden machen
    Nothing to be done about it ~ Da kann man nichts machen
    to make room = Platz machen
    This would probably be the largest category; just one example:
    They used to make excellent cars = Sie haben früher ausgezeichnete Fahrzeuge hergestellt
    Even Dutch and German often seem to differ: 'A has nothing to do with B' in Dutch would be A heeft niets te maken met B (correct me if I'm wrong) but in German A hat nichts zu tun mit B. Quite confusing...
  36. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    Thank you for all the information Holger. :) It's mighty confusing.
    For another machen/tun explanation in French. Again the uses almost never seem to parallel English. Tun has more uses that are the same as put in English, machen is more in line with do.
    My summary
    Machen = produce (make); cause (make); organize, repair, tidy (do); clean (do); calculate (make); bring about (make).
    Tun= work, accomplish (do); place, position, set (put); set it, mix in (put); function, work (do); hurt someone, harm (do); to have something/anything/nothing to do; pretend, play (put on).
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2016
  37. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    We can add Armenian to the list of languages in which the meanings are expressed by the same verb: անել (anel) means both "make" and "do".
  38. Dib Senior Member

    Bengali (India)
    As a related language, Bengali also possesses the same distinction, using the same two verbs (bana- to make; kɔr- to do), but the usage differs a bit.

    Make (some) tea = cha kɔro
    Do (your) work = kaj kɔro

    Make a toy = khælna banao
  39. 123xyz

    123xyz Senior Member

    Skopje, Macedonia

    прави/направи - do, make
    стори - only "do", but it's a pretty formal word, so in more colloquial conversations, the distinction is usually not made - one relies on the imprecise "прави"

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