When and where to use delexical verbs like do make have and take

There are many common expressions with these verbs, we call them delexical verbs, and often they are different in other languages, so you need to learn them.

Things we make

a mistake (= and error): He made a few mistakes in the exam.

a meal (= prepare and cook something to eat): I had to make my own dinner last night.

money (= become rich): He made a lot of money when he worked in America.

friends: It’s not always easy to make friends in a foreign country.

a decision: We can have the red ones or the green ones, but we must make a decision (choose the red or the green) before 6 p.m.

a noise: I can’t work when the children make a lot of noise.

progress (= improvement): Her English is good now; she has made a lot of progress.

Things we do

homework: I forgot to do my English homework last night.

the housework (= cleaning): My mother does all the housework in our house.

subjects (= study subjects): Did you do English at school?

a course: I did a one-week course in word processing.

the shopping (= buy food): I always do the shopping at the weekend.

research (= detailed study  in one subject): He’s doing research in physics at Rome University.

(someone) a favour (= do something to help someone): I don’t have any coffee. Could you do me a favour and lend me some?

something/anything/nothing: I didn’t do anything last night. That boy has done nothing all day.


Things we have

a rest (= relax / do nothing): They had a long rest after the game.

food (= eat food) and drink):  I had steak but Paul just had a cup of tea.

a drink (= drink something): Let’s have a drink before dinner.

a bath/shower:  I always have a bath when I get up.

a party: I’m having a party for my birthday.

a baby (= be pregnant or give birth): Mary is having a baby next month.

a (nice/great/terrible) time: We had a very nice time in Switzerland last year.

Things we take

an exam (also ‘do an exam’): I’m going to take four exams next month.

a photo: She took lots of photos on holiday.

a decision (also ‘make’): I’m not very good at taking decisions.

a shower (also ‘have’): I’m just going to take a shower before lunch.

a bus/train/plane/taxi: We were late, so we took a taxi to the airport.

Note: Notice the use of be + adjective (NOT have+noun) in these expressions: She was lucky / I’m hungry (= 1 want to eat) /  I’m thirsty (= I want a drink)