Image by nishir_rana (CC by 2.0)


One common mistake among almost all ESL students is mixing up when to use “make”, “take”, “give” or “do”, verbs we frequently use in English.  For example, we take photos -- not make them.  And, we make decisions -- not take them (although you will hear “take decisions” sometimes, but it’s not generally accepted as correct).

Now, knowing these words is a case of pure memorization.  To use these words correctly, you have to simply remember which verb goes with what word.

To make it easier, there are some words that always go with make, such as making meals like breakfast, lunch, (see chart below), etc.  To make it a little harder, there are a few words that can be used with make, take and give -- such as “money”.

You often learn these words separately when they occur in speaking or reading.  And, that means you learn them one-by-one.  But, in this case, I think it’s better to learn them in groups: words that always go with “make”; words that go with “take”; those words that we use with “do”; and the words that are linked to “go”.

So, take a look at the chart below that I created, or made, for my students. There are blank spaces at the end to add other words that you discover on your own.  Let me know if it helps.










 All meals:
  • breakfast
  • lunch
  • dinner
  • coffee, tea
  • chicken, soup, snack, sandwich, a birthday cake

I’m making chicken for dinner tonight.
All transportation:
  • a walk
  • the train
  • the bus
  • the flight
  • a taxi
  • the car
  • the ship
  • the ferry

Are you going to take your car to work? 
  • a favor

Would you do me a favor and drive me to the doctor’s? 
  • a chance, a second chance

Give him a chance to try to solve the problem on his own.

I’m sorry, please give me a second chance. 
  • mistakes, errors

Sorry, I made a mistake.
  • a bath, shower

Before I meet you, I have to take shower, OK?
  • homework

I can’t go tonight, because I have to do my homework.
  • a party

I’m giving a party for Maria next week. Can you come?
  • decisions, choice

Will you please make a decision?
  • photos

Can we take a photo of the whole class?
  • housework

You know, men can do housework, too.
  • a talk, a speech

I am so nervous about giving that speech next week. 
  • make fun of someone

I think it’s awful when they make fun of her bad skin.
  •  time off

I’m really sick of my job.  I think I have to take some time off from it.
  • project

Work is a lot better now, because I have a great project to do.
  • attention

We are about to start the exam.  Please give me your attention.
  • money

I like my job but I don’t make a lot of money at it.
  • money

Here, take the money.  I know you need it. Pay me back when things are better.
  • business

I like doing business with you.
  • money

Didn’t I give you money for new jeans last week?
  • trouble

Mind your own business, and stop making trouble for everyone.
  • your time

Don’t rush; take your time, and you’ll do a better job.
  • research

Have you heard about the new research they did on how women are so much smarter than men?
  • trouble

I don’t want to watch those kids anymore. They give me too much trouble. 
  • problems

Stop worrying.  Don’t make a problem for yourself where there is none.
  • a break

Take a break, and we’ll continue after.
  • presentation

I did a presentation on the intelligence of cats.
  • presentation

I gave a presentation on the loyalty of dogs. 
  • a difference

You can make a difference in the world.
  • the opportunity

I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to our new intern.
  • an internship

I did an internship in the USA.
  • an opportunity

If you give me the opportunity to work here, I’ll do a great job, I  promise.
  • a deal

We’ll make you a deal you can’t refuse.
  • a trip, vacation, journey

I’d love to take a trip to India.
  • a Master’s or Ph.D.

Where did you do your Master’s?
  • noise

Please stop making so much noise!
  • a nap, a rest

I can’t walk any farther.  I just have to take a rest.
  • a good job, your best

Do your best; that’s all we can ask of you.
  • friends, enemies

Have you made any friends yet?
  •  medicine

Did you take your medicine today?
  • work

What kind of work did you do before you retired?
  • medicine

Do you know what it’s like to give a cat medicine? 













Ilene Springer is an italki teacher from the US who works with advanced students.  She goes crazy if students in language schools ask if they can “make” a photo at the end of their lessons together (it’s take a photo). :)