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Most dictionaries simply say that to take/make notes means to write notes.

Is there anything more to this simple definition?

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    I think it would be fatuous to suppose any difference in meaning with notes in the plural. But really, questions at this level should be asked on English Language Learners, so I'm going to closevote as General Reference here on ELU. – FumbleFingers May 11 '14 at 16:04
  • That’s a ludicrous idea! – M.N May 11 '14 at 19:27
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“Make notes” typically only has one use, and it is not the one you reference. On the other hand, “Take notes” has two meanings (one literal and one figurative). The literal meaning of “take notes” is the one you've found so far:

You should take notes as this subject will be on the test.

It literally refers to writing notes. The figurative use of “take notes” is synonymous of the primary use of “make notes” (they are interchangeable)—though, admittedly, they are often used in the singular.

I will have to make note of that.

Take note, these are to be handled with care.

In this sense, the speaker is not commanding the second party to actually write notes, but rather to be aware of a given situation.

  • I disagree. Your example "Make note, these are to be handled with care" is at the very least an idiomatically "non-standard" usage. – FumbleFingers May 11 '14 at 16:05
  • "I hope you're taking notes" is way to tell someone they should pay attention. There is no hoping and often no literal notes involved. – Spehro Pefhany May 11 '14 at 16:19
  • @SpehroPefhany, that's a good point, though it seems like that is, in most cases, an extension of the figurative use. – HalosGhost May 11 '14 at 18:15
  • @FumbleFingers, fair enough. Let me replace that with a better example. – HalosGhost May 11 '14 at 18:16
  • Sorry, but to a first approximation, take note is akin to take care. You don't make care either. – FumbleFingers May 11 '14 at 18:21
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Usage question? Yes.

Take is taking something from a conversation. Making is bringing something to a piece of paper.

You can listen, reflect then make notes or listen not reflect and take notes.

The difference is the origin of the thoughts on the paper.

Making a note of this for future reference. Because I think it is important. (what I understood) so that I don't have to think about it later.

Vs. I'm taking notes now because I think it is important to remember this. (what you said) - so I can think about it later.

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