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It seems to me “take efforts”, “take a great effort” “take the effort to do something”, all three are ok. But I wonder whether you say “take effort” as a set phrase to mean something abstractly, for example:

People always take effort to be a better person, though they may be ignorant of what it means to become a better person.

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    No. One takes umbrage, takes pains, takes care, and takes one's time, but one makes an effort, makes an attempt, or makes certain. Different metaphors, see. – John Lawler Jan 15 '14 at 1:08
  • @JohnLawler that comment as an answer would win my upvote. – cr0m Jan 15 '14 at 1:21
  • While there are mistakes in the question, the more i think of the answer, the more i like it. – Martin F Jan 19 '14 at 0:12
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Something can take effort to accomplish. No one would doubt that it took Einstein some great effort to develop his theory of relativity, even though it is an abstraction of a sort. Something can also take courage, take time, take honesty, take patience, take kindness, etc. In this case, taking means meeting a requirement.

However, the person actually expending this effort is making the effort. One can make an/the effort to be a better person, though this takes courage, honesty, etc. You can also make time to do things. Make is a complicated verb, one meaning meaning of which is to cause (something) to exist or come about; bring about. One makes changes.

edited to add OP's example:

It takes effort to become a better person.

but

People make an effort to be a better person...

  • +1, and I think the most natural phrasing for the example sentence is "make an effort", rather than "make the effort". – Wayne Jan 15 '14 at 3:12
  • I think you should address the sample sentence the asker offers -- which is mistaken. – virmaior Jan 15 '14 at 3:50
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    In a nutshell: Things take effort -- effort that we make. Damn those things! – Martin F Jan 19 '14 at 0:06

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