1

Though all convey the same message, I'd like to know the subtlety, if any.

I committed a blunder/mistake
I made a blunder/mistake
I did a blunder/mistake

Note: I'm clear about what is a blunder and what is a mistake. So basically, in the context of blunder/mistake, which verb (do, make, commit) means what? Is there any specific occasion we should use 'commit' and not 'make' or 'do' and not 'make' or the like.

  • In English, do a mistake is not a normally accepted construction. One can do something bad/wrong/badly/good and others, but do a + noun has more limited uses. – anongoodnurse May 30 '14 at 6:32
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    @medica for your reference. independent.co.uk/sport/football/international/… - A native! – Maulik V May 30 '14 at 9:00
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    @medica Okay. I take but trust me, I have heard it a lot. – Maulik V May 30 '14 at 9:11
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    Updated answer - I've double-checked, I can't find any attestations in BrE or AmE for did a blunder/mistake – jimsug May 30 '14 at 15:22
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    The did in your Independent headline is not the remnant of an ellipsis - did a mistake - but did as a pro-verb, the equivalent of a pronoun. Did in this sense can "stand for" any verb or VP. "Who biddlegroped the framistat?" -"I did". – StoneyB May 30 '14 at 22:02
5

Frequencies

A search of COCA reveals the following frequencies, out of 3,303:

  • make/makes/made/making a mistake 3087
  • commit/committed a mistake 8
  • make/made a blunder 9
  • committed/committing a blunder 3
  • do/did/does a blunder 0 These don't add up to 3,303 because I've excluded irrelevant collocations

Very clearly, making a mistake is the unmarked form.

I'm afraid that do a mistake/blunder is not attested in the data. In fact, having searched the British National Corpus, the Corpus of Historical American English, and the Corpus of Global Web-Based English, I cannot find a single attestation of I did a mistake/blunder (or any other forms of did, in any tense, person or number).

From this, I'm going to assert that do a mistake/blunder is not well-formed, grammatical, or even used in Standard British or American English. As I don't currently have access to corpora for other variants of English, I can't comment on their usage/currency.


Now, to the differences in meaning.

Definitions

commit
to perform (a crime, error, etc); do; perpetrate
make
to cause to exist, bring about, or produce

So, what are the implications?

commit vs make

Well, firstly, it should be noted that the parentheticals - a crime, error, etc are from the original, and the definition of perpetrate contains parenthetical deception, crime.
Now, while obviously not conclusive, lexicographers tend to put these terms as examples, generally taken from common uses. These are likely to be frequent collocates of commit and perpetrate.

This gives commit a distinctly negative connotation - you don't commit an act of charity, and even though that is perfectly well-formed, using it in that way infuses the act of charity with negative entailments.

Bottom line

Use commit when the act is immoral, illegal, or you wish to imbibe that sense. Use make for more neutrality. Do not use do in situations where native American or British English is expected.

  • I'm not confused about mistake/blunder. It was just an option. – Maulik V May 30 '14 at 5:42
  • @MaulikV do you mean you instead want to know the difference between do/make/commit? Otherwise I'm not sure what you mean when you sat it's an option. Do you mean example? – jimsug May 30 '14 at 5:58
  • If you commit a blunder OR mistake how it differs from you making or doing a blunder OR mistake. Don't bother about 'blunder' and 'mistake' --I know the difference. – Maulik V May 30 '14 at 6:13
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    Clarified. It's about choosing the verb for specific context. – Maulik V May 30 '14 at 6:16

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