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Delexical verbs: 'have', 'take', 'make', 'give', 'go' and 'do'

Level: beginner

We often use common verbs like have and take with nouns like a shower, a drink:

I took a shower. (= I showered.)
She had a drink. (= She drank something.)

We call these delexical verbs because the important part of the meaning is taken out of the verb and put into the noun.

We often put adjectives in front of the noun:

I took a cold shower.
She had a nice, refreshing drink.

The verbs used most frequently in this way are:

have take make give


We use have with:

  have ...
food and drink a meal, breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack, a cup of tea
talking a chat, a conversation, a discussion, a talk
washing a bath, a shower, a wash, a scrub
resting a break, a holiday, a rest
disagreeing an argument, a dispute, a fight, a quarrel

I had a good breakfast before I left home.
We had a long talk about the problem.
The kids should have a bath before they go to bed.
She generally had a short holiday in July or August.
They had a serious quarrel about their father's will.

We also use have with nouns formed from verbs:

I think you should have a look at this.
She had a bite of the cake.
I'm thirsty. I'm going to have a drink of water.
I had a listen to that new CD in the car.
They are going to have a swim.

Delexical verbs 1: have



We use take with:

washing a bath, a shower, a wash
resting a break, a holiday, a rest

I always take a cold shower in the morning.
You look tired. You need to take a break.

and with these words:

care of
a turn
the trouble
a chance
a risk
a decision
a photograph

We took hundreds of photographs on holiday.
Jane always takes a lot of trouble with her homework.

We also use take with some nouns formed from verbs:

I think you should take a look at this.
Let's take a walk.
They are going to take a swim.

Delexical verbs 2: take


Delexical verbs 3: have and take



We use give with:

noises a cry, a laugh, a scream, a shout, a whistle
facial expressions a smile, a grin, a look, a glance
hitting a kick, a punch, a slap, a push, a knock, a blow
affectionate actions a hug, a kiss, a stroke
talking some advice, an answer, some information, an interview, a lecture, some news, a report, a speech, a talk, a warning

She gave a loud laugh.
John gave a happy smile.
He gave me a nasty kick on the leg.
She gave the children a goodnight kiss and put them to bed.
I have to give a speech at the meeting tomorrow.

Delexical verbs 4: give



We use make with:

talking and sounds a comment, an enquiry, a noise, a point, a promise, a sound, a speech, a suggestion
plans arrangements, a choice, a decision, a plan, plans, an appointment, a date

Try not to make a noise.
They made arrangements to meet the next day.

Delexical verbs 5: make


Delexical verbs 6: give and make



We also use go as a delexical verb:

Shall we go swimming this afternoon? Or shall we go for a walk?
Mum and Dad have gone shopping.
We're going dancing tonight. Do you want to come?

We use go with -ing verbs for common activities:

We usually go walking at the weekend.
He goes running every evening after supper.
Mum's out. She's gone shopping.

We use go for a with verbs to do with moving:

a jog a ride a swim a run a stroll a walk

I want to get out of here. Let's go for a walk.
He's gone for a ride on his bike.

Delexical verbs 7: go



We use do with -ing nouns to do with work, especially work in the house:

It's your turn to do the cooking.
You do the washing up and I'll do the drying.

and with other nouns to do with work:

I need to do a few jobs around the house.
I can't come out this evening. I have a lot of work to do.

We use do with nouns when it is obvious what the action is:

I'll have to do my hair before we go out. (= I'll have to brush my hair.)
Have you done your teeth? (= Have you cleaned your teeth?)

A question like

Have you done the car?

could mean

Have you washed the car?
Have you mended the car?
Have you put petrol in the car?

depending on the context.

Delexical verbs 8: do


Delexical verbs 9: go and do



Hello Jostev

I'm not a lexicologist, but I believe this particular expression came in to use in the 1980s. Note that while it does mean 'have lunch', to my ears, at least, it makes the lunch sound like a task. Not necessarily a task that you don't want to do, just that there's some other motivation behind it than just getting together and socialising.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Is "take a decision" actually correct? I've read many English blogs where they said is incorrect.

Hello PAVS,

Both 'take a decision' and 'make a decision' are correct. 'Make a decision' is a little less common, but is fine.



The LearnEnglish Team


The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered "Man! Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies HAVING never really lived.
What's the meaning of having here

Hello Abdo Hassan

Here, 'having' is part of the adverbial participle clause 'having never really lived'. It describes the manner in which such a person lives, i.e. he or she lives without really living. See our participle clauses page for more examples.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Can we use this expression 'make a right' instead of 'turn right'?
And what about 'turn first right' instead of 'take the first turning on the right'?!

Hi Marua,

Yes, 'make a right' is correct and natural. The other two phrases are a bit awkward -- I'd recommend 'take the first right' instead.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Marua,

We're happy to help you, but please consider that the purpose of our comments section is to provide a place where we can help our users get the most out of the content on our website. In other words, we are happy to help answer questions about the exercises or explanations on these pages, or with occasional questions that are closely related to what is on our pages. Sometimes we even answer other questions, but we can't do this regularly. For that kind of thing, you really need to ask your own teacher, or find one if you do not have one.

So I will answer these questions now, but please consider that are not able to continue answering these kinds of questions every day.

1. 'go right' is correct but 'do right' is not.
2. 'walk on' is correct. 'go on' is not incorrect, but 'go down' is more natural.
3. 'go straight' or 'go straight ahead' are correct.
4. 'make a right turn' or 'turn right' or 'go right' are all common and correct. The first one would be a bit strange directed at a pedestrian.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


Can we use "has" to show possession?

For e.g, She has a brother.

Is the above sentence correct?

or "She have a brother" is correct?