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I was trying to understand the difference between saying "I'm making a mistake" instead of "I'm doing a mistake", or "I make mistakes" instead of "I do mistakes" etc... I'm aware of the difference between "to do" and "to make" in terms of verb meaning or the fact that the verb "do" is an auxiliary for formulating questions etc.

I'm trying however to understand how does a listener interpret differently the two sentences (just an instance of application):

  1. "I made a grammar mistake!"
  2. "I did a grammar mistake!"

I don't actually see any grammar mistakes there, both sentences look to me perfectly correct, so the only difference between the two of them is probably how the listener (who I'm assuming the first language is English) interprets them. I've been studying English for a while now and I do know a normal speaker would probably say 1. instead of 2. My mind would suggest me that 2. is just not natural to say for a speaker, but a moment of reflection actually tells me that the two of them are grammatically correct.

Then… why is 1. correct rather than 2? It's also possible that I'm not considering some grammar issues.…

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  • ell.stackexchange.com/questions/55764/… This might help a bit.
    – Vico Lemp
    Jan 30, 2017 at 14:12
  • I read through that link earlier, which motivated my question. In one of the answers it is said something like ' the sentence isn't correct because you "make mistakes" and you don't "do mistakes" '. I still thing there's something unclear there, it sounds me that the incorrectness of the "do" instead of "make" is because, again, it's just not used in that way. You can formulate many correct sentences that sounds unnatural but they're still correct. Jan 30, 2017 at 14:16
  • It's not really about grammar.It's just how the form is naturally used by native speakers.And it's really hard to explain why "make"is appropriate and why "do" is not. You got Ngram as your best friend
    – user178049
    Jan 30, 2017 at 14:42
  • Even to non native like me "I did a grammar mistake" sounds strange. May be "I did a grammatical mistake"?
    – user17814
    Jun 5, 2018 at 3:14

1 Answer 1

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To make a mistake is a set, or fixed in the language usage, collocation, like many other collocations with the verb make, for example:

make a phone call

make a joke

make a complaint

make a confession

and so on.

And there are as many collocations with the verb do, for example:

do homework

do business

do a good/great/terrible job

do a report

and so on.

Being the set word combinations, they must just be remembered so that you can't misuse the verb, which is always either "do" or "make", the choice depending on what follows it.

The source.

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  • Could you define what "set collocation" means? Jan 30, 2017 at 14:44
  • @user8469759 - Fixed conclusively or authoritatively
    – Victor B.
    Jan 30, 2017 at 14:46
  • So it's literally combination of words that sound right, is that what are you saying? It's a kind of "it's right because it's right"? Jan 30, 2017 at 14:50
  • I have to say I wasn't aware such "collocation" was a kind of specific aspect of the English language. I thought it was just a "common sense" thing instead there are also articles related: like this one englishclub.com/vocabulary/collocations-lists.htm Jan 30, 2017 at 14:53
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    "Did a grammar mistake" sounds wrong enough that I would assume you were either speaking very poor English or were engaging in extremely unusual wordplay (like if you were a language teacher, and had extorted sex from a student who had poor grammar). Native speakers might sometimes playfully subvert the standard usages in a joking way (like the famous "Oll Korrekt," which eventually turned into "OK"), but those subversions don't change the correct usage.
    – fectin
    Jan 31, 2017 at 2:12

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