Making do

Making a jigsaw in English would mean cutting the puzzle pieces out of the sheet of wood or card, not solving it. There are other occasions too where Dutch uses “make” but English prefers “do”.

Try to keep this one top of mind – it’s easy enough to google up a couple of phrases to check which word is preferred. Examples:

  • doing a jigsaw puzzle (not making)
  • doing an analysis (not making)
  • doing or taking a test (not making)
  • doing a dance (not making)
  • doing your homework (not making)
  • In such cases, where reasonable, the verb make would more likely refer to the creative action: setting it up for someone else.

Uncertainty over this one may also be part of the reason why non-native English is so often peppered with lengthier synonyms – execute, perform and the like.

Prevalence: moderate. Perhaps more common in speech than writing, where people tend to go for wordier alternatives.
Frequency: high. A very common error for the phrases in question.
Native: no. Typical small-word mistake that picks out the foreigners, in fact.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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