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In the following sentence, which is idiomatic: make or do? Is there any difference in register, meaning, or usage?

There’s a little Japanese place near my office that makes/does great sushi!

I've seen both words used in this sort of sentence, so: Does the restaurant do great sushi, or does it make great sushi? Does the bar down the street make a decent martini, or does it do a decent martini? etc.

Does it depend on whether the cook is a person or an establishment? (i.e., does my grandma make a mean lasagna, or does she do one?)

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    Are you creating it or consuming it? Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 15:48
  • In the example creating is implied.
    – Aynat
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 15:51
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    Make is correct. Do is casual and includes presenting and serving in this context. Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 15:53
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    I’m voting to close this question because you also posted the same question on ELL. Do not do this.
    – alphabet
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 16:09
  • I’m voting to close this question because it's cross-posted on ELL Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 18:00

5 Answers 5

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Even restricting the scope here to do as a main verb, it is extremely polysemous.

Cambridge Dictionary gives (among many others) two senses relevant here:

do [verb] (MAKE) A2 [transitive]

to make, produce, or create something.

I've had to look outside dictionaries for examples referring to making / preparing dishes:

• 'My mother does a very good apple pie ...' [Paul Hollywood; Tasting Table]

You can do a great salad with sprouts, matki, usal, spinach leaves, green and ripe mango, dry roasted peanuts, poha or puffed rice ... [Reddit, courtesy of Google]

..................

do [verb] (CAUSE TO HAVE) [transitive] [Collins adds a 'mainly British' caveat]

to provide or sell something, or to cause someone to have something:

  • They are doing a special offer - three for the price of two.
  • Do you do travel insurance as well as flights?
  • The bar only does food at lunchtimes, not in the evenings.

So 'does great sushi' is acceptable here, though it is not clear whether the sushi is actually prepared at the restaurant (if that's what the 'place' is, which seems very likely) or just bought in and retailed.

..............................................................

'... makes great sushi' is also acceptable, and is unambiguous at the basic level. Obviously, preparation is now definitely involved (though 'the place' may conceivably just make the sushi to distribute to outlets).

..............................................................

Prompted by jsw:

The use of 'do' in these senses is far more informal than 'make' (or 'serve' / 'sell') (neutral) and certainly 'prepare' (formal), though is no longer (in the UK) regarded as slang (which was my impression when hearing the usages 50 years ago). Use in formal writing would usually be inappropriate (though 'the customer preferred his steaks well-done' doesn't come across as informal), but 'do' for 'serve' or 'sell' is common in conversation and in chat rooms, as is 'do' for 'cook', 'prepare' [a meal].

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When in a restaurant that accepts requests from patrons, the verb do is often used instead of make.

Instead of the tart, could you do a simple bowl of blueberries in heavy cream?

The nuance of the verb do in that context is that it refers to what the restaurant is willing to do for the patron, not what they know how to "make".

In other contexts, like "that shop does a fantastic seafood pizza" the meaning is that the restaurant is known for their unique "interpretation" of that kind of pizza. The locution is a second-cousin, as it were, of "Seafood Pizza alla Giuseppe's".

P.S. And sometimes do [a dish, or a type of food or a cuisine] simply means to make it available on their menu, to offer it.

It's a vegetarian restaurant. They don't do meat dishes.

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The word "do" is very general. It can refer to almost any action. Exactly what it means depends on context. If you say, "Bob does sushi", if you're talking about is cooking you mean that he cooks it. If you're talking about his eating habits you mean that he eats it. If Bob works for a food marketing company you might mean that he sells it or delivers it. If Bob is in advertising you might mean that he creates ads for it. Etc.

Likewise, you could say, "Bob does weight lifting", "Bob does auto repair", "Bob does accounting", or lots of other things.

And by the way, you can say that a person "does" another person, meaning they have sexual relations with them. Like, "Wow, she's beautiful. I'd really like to do her!"

So yes, you can say that a restaurant "does sushi", meaning they make it and presumably sell it to customers.

In general, if you can think of a word more specific than "do", you should use it. Because "do" is so general, it could be ambiguous. And to some extent it may sound sloppy or uneducated. Like, better to say, "Bob makes advertisements selling sushi" than "Bob does sushi".

For a restaurant, we usually say that they "serve" a given type of food, meaning that they cook it and give it to customers. I'd say, "This restaurant serves sushi" rather than "does" or "makes".

But "do" and "make" would certainly be understood. If you're talking about a restaurant, I think a listener would assume that "does sushi" means they cook it and give it to customers, and not that they launch it into space or something. If you meant that they do something OTHER than cook it and serve it, like you meant that they produce ad campaigns on its nutritional value or whatever, then you definitely should use other words to be clear.

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    It is certainly true that using do in the way that this question is about, rather than some more specific term, 'may sound sloppy or uneducated', but it may also sound deliberately casual, quirky, whimsical. The register of 'we don't do windows' is very different from that of 'our services don't include window washing', but the difference need not reflect any difference in the speakers' education.
    – jsw29
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 20:48
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    @jsw29 Good point. Yes, it could also simply be casual or whimsical. Like, it is very common for highly educated and literate professionals to say, "Hey, let's do lunch!" Etc.
    – Jay
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 7:02
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Here’s what the OED has to say:

do v.
I. As a main verb.
I.7.b. transitive. colloquial. To provide or offer (meals, a product, etc.) commercially.
1932   Flora was in the saloon bar.., asking Mrs. Murther the landlady if she ‘did’ lunches.
1966   [Farmers’] wives are encouraged to take visitors and ‘do teas’.
1970   The Marina doesn’t do meals other than breakfast.
1984   Tesco does a roasting veal £2.89 a lb.
1994   Sainsbury is doing three different fresh chillies with a flavour and heat guide on the pack.
2006   All taco trucks in Los Angeles do breakfasts, and it’s always good.

Source: Oxford English Dictionary (login required)

So, yes, the restaurant does great sushi and the bar does a decent martini.

Interestingly, the OED does distinguish between “offering” fare and simply “making” it (note that this entry is not labeled colloquial, and see specifically the usage examples at 1854, 1985, and 1998):

I.16.c. To prepare or make ready as food; to cook; to preserve, pickle, etc. Also intransitive, with the food as subject: to undergo cooking. Cf. done *adj.*1 A.3, well-done adj. A.4.
1660   We had..a carp and some other fishes, as well done as ever I eat any.
1796   Red currants are done the same way.
1819   Throw in a piece of butter, and break the yolks of six eggs, which you beat up with it, and let them do over the stove.
1854   You may mention the dexterity of Tom, my cook, in doing a stew or ragout.
1885   [She] will have an extra bloater or a mutton chop done to a turn.
1896   Carême did the dinner to-night, as he does every Sunday.
1902   Your Boston beans done in an earthen pot with the middle-piece pork just rightly browned.
1985   Shall I do some tea?
1998   Don’t stuff yourself with rubbish lunchtime. I’m doing lamb hotpot tonight.

Source: Oxford English Dictionary (login required)

So, yes, Grandma is doing a mean lasagne tonight.

Does it depend on whether the cook is a person or an establishment? Or whether the food is peddled or not? Is it I.7.b if Grandma’s pushing her lasagne at a potluck? Is it I.16.c if she’s simply making lasagne for dinner?

I’m not so sure those distinctions occur in the mind of the speaker — neither in usage nor register.

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  • The 16.c cases convey the idea of some process that admits of degrees: it can be done more or less thoroughly. The 7.b cases, on the other hand, are about yes-or-no matters: is something available or not available. It seems to me highly relevant to the OP's concerns that the dictionary characterises the 7.b sense (but not the 16.c one) as colloquial, which characterisation is confirmed by the fact that early examples of it are in quotation marks.
    – jsw29
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 15:40
  • @jsw29 — What do you perceive the difference to be between I'm doing lamb hotpot tonight and Sainsbury is doing lamb hotpot this week? Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 22:59
  • The former brings to mind the thought of the time I'll spend preparing the hotpot; the latter does not bring to mind any comparable thoughts about the work of Sainsbury's employees (it conveys only the information that the hotpot is available there this week). The latter is colloquial, the former is not.
    – jsw29
    Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 15:00
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Make:

Making sushi (or anything else) is the process of preparing a dish from ingredients.

Do:

"Doing" something is colloquial humor.

As in:

"They do sushi" means sushi is in the cards for that particular establishment.

"I don't do sushi" can mean that you refuse to eat it or, as a chef, are not in the habit of making it.

"I do science" means you're a scientist OR you take an interest in that field.

"I don't do commercial flying" means you prefer traveling in business class.

And so forth.

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    What makes you think do is "colloquial humor"? Merriam-Webster lists as one of the meanings of "do": "to prepare for use or consumption, especially : COOK, like my steak done rare". No warnings about being colloquial or non-standard. Not funny.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 18:21
  • While characterising do in this context as 'colloquial humor' may be too strong (it is indeed unlikely that anybody would laugh upon hearing it), this answer is correct in bringing out the colloquial, informal character of do. Using done to specify how thoroughly something is cooked, is very different from using do to say only that a restaurant offers something.
    – jsw29
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 19:29
  • Merriam-Webster's 22nd and final transitive of "do" is "partake," and I think it's both his humorous and pretentious. In fact, my American ear would find it humorous if the speaker didn't realize it was pretentious (but that's just me).
    – Roister
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 18:41
  • @Roister: I've already got downvoted twice on this one, but for what it's worth: in order to find anything humorous, anything at all, one needs to be fond of humans as a species, even just a little bit. "Do," as MY American ear suggests, would not make any grammatical sense otherwise, regardless of what Merriam-Webster's 22nd may have to say about it and why - in this glorious epoch of ours characterized by aggressive anti-intellectualism.
    – Ricky
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 20:40
  • Business class air travel is commercial.
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 3:02

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