It is not always easy to choose between "do" and "make". Do can be an auxiliary verb (Do you like coffee?) or a main verb (I did my homework yesterday.). As an auxiliary verb, it has no meaning. It is necessary only for the grammatical structure. As a main verb it has a meaning, but the meaning is rather general. It often expresses a general activity. Make is not an auxiliary verb. It is always a main verb (I made a cake yesterday.). Its meaning is also rather general, but it often expresses the idea of construction or creation. Do for general activity
When we talk about a general activity but do not say what it is, we can use do:
I want to do something.
What are you doing this evening?
What can we do?
Do it now!
Do for work
We usually use do to talk about work:
What do you do? (= What is your job?)
Who does your shopping?
I don't want to do any work today.
I hate doing the washing up.
Have you done your homework?
Note that we sometimes use do to replace another more exact verb (but only when the meaning is clear from the situation). This is very informal.
do the lawn (cut/mow? sow? the lawn)
do my room (tidy? paint? my room)
do the car (wash? paint? repair? the car)
Make for construction Make often expresses the idea of construction or creation:
I'll make a cake for Anthony's birthday.
This car was made in France.
Did you make this table yourself?
Remember that we usually use make for products or goods that are manufactured. That's why you see labels like "Made in Hong Kong" or "Made in the USA" on products that you buy.
Do the shopping. (We don't really create anything. We just "do" an activity.)
Make a cake. (We really create something.)
In the next example, notice how we use make for creation (the cake) and then use do (for the general activity) even though we're really talking about the same thing:
I must make Anthony's cake. I'll do it now.
Expressions with Do and Make
Here are some expressions that you should learn. Notice that as main verbs we use make more often than do:
do a favour
make an attempt
make a bed (usually this means "tidy the bedclothes" but it could mean "manufacture the furniture")