Don’t do mistakes with verbs when you make business in English

Career August 27, 2015

Did that title sound right to you? Hopefully not! In English you make mistakes and do business.

Learners of English often struggle with the verbs make, do and have, especially when they are paired with a noun. If you want to sound really professional, it is important to get both parts right.

students in class

People use more complicated constructions and less direct language in business contexts. Here are some of the most important examples. Some are logical, some you will just have to memorise.


We often use “have” when a fixed event is involved:

  • …a meeting
  • …an interview
  • …lunch / dinner (you will sometimes hear “do lunch” – this is less formal but increasingly acceptable)
  • …a holiday / a break (take a holiday and take a break are also fine)

We also use “have” for conversations:

  • …a discussion
  • …an argument / a disagreement
  • …a chat / a conversation (you can also make conversation when the person you are speaking to does not have much to say)

And an important one:

  • …a job (“I have a job as a teacher”. There is also do a job / do the job, which is a colloquial way of saying that something or someone does what it is supposed to: “Diego Costa is not the most elegant footballer but he does the job”.)


We normally use “do” when there is a task or job involved:

  • …the planning / the preparation (but you make plans, make preparations)
  • …the calculations / the figures / the sums / the accounts
  • …the job / the work / the groundwork (Have you done the work?)
  • …the dirty work (the president had his assistants do his dirty work)

And some set expressions:

  • …business (they do business around the world)
  • …a deal (you can also make a deal or strike a deal – either option is correct)
  • …good / harm (the fruit company pretends to do good [make a positive difference] in the community but they actually do harm.)


We use “make” to describe what we are doing when we speak:

  • …a point
  • …a statement
  • …a comment
  • …a mistake
  • …an error
  • …an enquiry
  • …an offer
  • …a promise
  • …a complaint
  • …an excuse

And some set expressions:

  • …peace (the two rivals made peace)
  • …progress
  • …a deal / a compromise (you can also do a deal, strike a deal or strike a compromise)
  • …money / a fortune
  • …it (to make it is to succeed)
  • …an appointment
  • …a phone call
  • …space / time (“I will make space in my diary for the meeting” or “You must make time for it”)
  • …a target (this means to achieve a target; to create a target is to set a target)

With some of these examples, once you have made them, you have them. For example, once an appointment has been made (confirmed), you have an appointment. Once you make a fortune, you have a fortune. And then your grandchildren waste it…

You’ll just have to make do

So there you have it, a guide to some of the more challenging uses of have, do and make in English. Believe it or not, the above title is also perfectly good English: to make do is to accept or settle for something.


By Alex Hammond

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