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Make, Take, Get
Or How to get confused with the English language

By Stefka Gerova

When was the last time you made something with your own hands? Unless you're a carpenter, a jeweler or some other type of a craftsman, then perhaps the answer will be: a long time ago. Yet, you made breakfast this morning, made up with your beloved one, made your way to work, made a profit on the stock market, finally made a decision to see an old friend, and the latter made your day!

The same story, of course, goes for taking things: you took the kids to school, upon which you took the train to work, then took the coffee at your office desk for granted, later you were taken aback by the incompetence of your own secretary, next you had to take a note on what your boss was saying, then you took this visitor out for a business dinner, and finally managed to take off from work! And all that without any physical action of taking or being taken!

Now, if this is not enough yet, here's some more about getting things and/or people: you surely got up this morning, got out of the house, got the car and then got into a traffic jam; upon finally getting to work, you got across a new person in the office, got acquainted with him/her, got back to yesterday's top-priority task, got into an argument with your boss, got over it, then got your paycheck, and finally got out of the office.


One can surely get by for days on end by using only three verbs of the otherwise rich English language: MAKE, TAKE, and GET. Everything that can happen to an English-speaking human being is easily summarized in just three words. What a pity, then, that you took all this time to learn English properly, especially those SAT words which now make no sense because no one makes use of them! Before you start pitying yourself even more than this, let me reveal two hazards that lie hidden underneath the smiley faces of the above-mentioned three all-purpose words.


Confusing the three is not uncommon, especially substituting take for make and vice versa. Since MAKE, TAKE and GET engage primarily in phrasal-verb combinations, confusing them sounds very funny in the ears of native speakers and typically makes no sense at all. The following include just a sample of mistakes commonly made by international students in the United States:

  • one doesn't take a decision, but rather makes a decision
  • one could make a face at another person, but the latter doesn't really get a face
  • you make a career, but you take on a career path
  • you make time for something in your schedule, but you can't really take time in your schedule (unless you take time off, which implies you don't get anything done in the first place)
  • surprisingly, you make a new friend, even though in reality you simply got another friend; yet, the two of you get along well, but don't make along
  • big surprise: one can both make and get a gift, but pay attention to who's at the giving end and who - at the receiving one
  • you can get hold of your boss, but you can't take hold of him/her
  • you take offence in something, but you don't get offence (hey, you get offended!)
  • while you take a test, your professor is the one who makes the test.


Suppose you've learned all of the phrasal verbs by heart, so no confusion should stem from any source. But the perils of the English language have just prepared to play another trick on you, just so that you as a non-native English speaker get convinced that this language is unmasterable. That is, if you switch some verbs around, you would end up having completely different phrases with even more different meanings! For all practical purposes, this implies that a mere slip of the tongue can potentially result in rather funny and sometimes embarrassing situations. Here are some amusing examples:

  • even though you normally get off an airplane each time you come back to the United
  • States for some more studying, your plane takes off beforehand; if you try to take off yourself, people might be startled at your hidden flying talents
  • and don't confuse take out with make out, as the first sounds like a nice dinner or a performance is coming, whereas the second one implies a relationship and public affection
  • while take over implies some degree of imperialism or bossiness, get over is a problem-solving verb, so please don't try to take over your problems and claim that some king wanted to get over the world
  • and while one gets through hardships, one also makes it through hardships
  • oh, make up and get up, I'm sure, no one will confuse!

Perhaps, you should really stick to the less-confusing SAT verbs, which are at least different from one another!


While mastering the problematic side of these funny MAKE, TAKE and GET might be quite challenging, it is consoling to know that even native English speakers often make mistakes or confuse them. And the upside of this tiring tirade is that one can have fun with them just because they sound odd. Just consider the following: on the make, in the makings, make ends meet, make no bones about, maker, make-work, take a joke, take pride in, take care, take charge, take a deep breath, give-and-take, get a life, get the wind of, get in on the act, get wrong, get on one's nerves... The list continues on and on, and I keep on wondering: why did I ever start learning English?!

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