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Make or Create?

This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a reader’s question about two common verbs. Here it is:

Question:

Hi, I'm Zachary. I would like to know the difference between “make” and “create.” How do we use them in everyday life? Thank you for your answer!

-Zachary, China

Answer:

Hello Zachary,

On a normal day, someone may make many things, but the person may create nothing at all. This morning, for example, I made breakfast. But, so far today, I have not created anything. Tonight, however, I may create a recipe for dinner.

The words “make” and “create” can have a few meanings. But today we will talk about the one that is commonly confused.

Make

The verb “make” means to produce, build or prepare something – usually through common processes.

Someone can make a tasty meal, for example. But that does not mean the person used uncommon cooking methods or ingredients. A person can work in a factory that makes vehicles or clothing. But that factory does not create these things. Use of the verb “make” tells us that the production processes and the vehicle or clothing designs already existed.

Create

The verb “create” usually suggests newness or innovation. Generally, it means to produce something new or to bring something into existence. “Create” often suggests that the making of a thing requires special skill or imagination, or uncommon processes, such as a work of art or an invention.

So, to create a meal would mean to invent a new dish or recipe. To create a vehicle or piece of clothing means to design one that is different from earlier models.

Learn collocations

Collocations may be the reason some English learners find themselves unsure about whether to use “make” or “create.” In English, some words just go together and some do not.

For example, the word “make” is used in collocations such as “make the bed,” “make a choice” and “make noise.” A native speaker would not say “create noise.”

The word “create” is often used in collocations that involve intangible things, like in “create an atmosphere” and “create a playlist.”

And that’s Ask a Teacher for this week.

I’m Alice Bryant.

Words in This Story

recipe - n. a set of instructions for making food

confuse - v. to make someone uncertain or unable to understand something

ingredient - n. one of the things that are used to make a food, product, etc.

innovation - n. the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods

dish - n. food that is prepared in a particular way

intangible - adj. not made of physical substance

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