What's the difference between "do to" and "do with"? I often find the verb "do" followed by "to" and by "with" as well. But I can't make out the difference between their usage. Are they interchangeable to use?

  • 3
    Perhaps you could give some examples of the usage you've seen, to clarify for us exactly what you're trying to understand?
    – 3N1GM4
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 9:41
  • 1
    Just as @3N1GM4 pointed out, it's hard to supply a good answer to the OP's question without the context/sentences they might have in mind. Furthermore, it's possible to offer a good one but it may don't cover the spots OP wants to.
    – Abbasi
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 10:09
  • @3N1GM4 I dont exactly remember/ I only remember two of them 1. They dont know what you've done to my hear(song lyric) 2. Her friend went away, but she stayed; what could you do with such a person, Chips thought(Mr. Chips - Novel)
    – Saqeeb
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 14:45
  • 1
    @FanBoy "They dont know what you've done to my hear" doesn't really make sense to me - is it definitely "my hear"?
    – 3N1GM4
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 15:19
  • @3B1GM4 Oh! Sorry . it's not "my hear", it's "my heart"
    – Saqeeb
    Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 18:29

3 Answers 3


When you:

do [something] to [something/someone]

this is definitely different to when you:

do [something] with [something/someone]

In the first case, whatever you are doing is directly impacting the person/object you are doing it to, whereas in the second case you are just doing whatever you are doing in collaboration with (or in proximity to) the person/object.

  • OP could also be getting the phrase "due to" mixed up with "do to".
    – LawrenceC
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 17:57
  • Seems unlikely to me, but if so, perhaps they will edit their question to clarify.
    – 3N1GM4
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 18:15

Short answer: Not usually.

Long answer: I would enjoy the things that we would do with each other, but I would not enjoy things that you would do to me (Definitions 1 and 2). Or I would enjoy them, too, but it'd be a little sadomasochistic :) (Definition 3).

What do you think?

  • My advice is to just treat each situation separately to help you better remember and differentiate. That is, remember "do something good to someone", "do something bad to someone", "do something good with someone" as three different situations. Just easier as an English language-learner. Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 9:51

"What would you do with a person behaving like this?"

means "How would you treat / handle them?" or "How would you try to get them to behave more reasonably?"

Here, replacing 'with' with 'to' sounds like a call for serious retribution.


Another sense is shown in a later ELU question:

"You may have stolen my heart, but you'll never do that with my smile."

or in a closer but stodgier rewrite

"You may have stolen my heart, something you'll never do with my smile."

' ... do with' here means 'carry out the [repeat] process' / 'succeed in doing'.

'With' sounds better than 'to' here as one doesn't say "What did the burglars do to the papers they found in the safe?"

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