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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:

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



Hi AliceHarumi,
In most contexts the sentences mean the same thing.  The phrase 'go walking' strongly suggests a hobby or something you are doing (even if only once) for pleasure - walking because you want to walk.  The second sentence can have this meaning too, but it could also mean 'we walk at weekends rather than taking the car, as we do during the week'.
In your sentence 'go' is an example of what we call a delexicalised verb.  You can find more information, and some exercises, on this here.
I hope that clarifies it for you.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi guys,
Best wishes for you and thanks for a great job!!!
Although, I've been learning English for a while now, I can't help myself having questions every single day...... Today, I'd like to know what kind of expressions are: "Let's go get it" or "let's go eat" are they grammatically correct or on the contrary they ideally need a "to" to separate the verbs?
I would appreciate any further reference to read.
Thanks, in advance!!  

Hi Piperacilina,
Thanks for your feedback - it's always great to know that people appreciate our work! I think it's great that you have questions every day - this means you're really paying attention to the language, and though it might make you feel you know less than you do, this attitude will really help you learn English well. So keep it up!
As for your question, let's is used to make suggestions or give commands to a group of people that includes the speaker. It is followed by the bare infinitive, so saying "let's go" or "let's eat," for example, is correct.
When we say "let's go" plus another verb, we don't use to between the verbs. It is possible to say and (let's go and get some coffee), though to me it sounds more natural to combine the verbs with no word between them: let's go get some some coffee.
I'm sure you'll have more questions - you have them every day - and please don't hesitate to ask us again if you'd like to!
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Learn English Team! My name's Ikrema and I'm from Pakistan. I was just wondering if you could please explain the use of "Make sb do sth for you" I've been through the examples given by OALD and it is pretty much clear to me but I'm a little confused about it because there is a teacher in our town that teaches B.A English. I happened to see one of his student's note book and here's the examples he used to explain the use of "Make". 1 "I shall make dad punish my younger brother" 2 "The teacher makes the principal punish students"
       It doesn't make any sense to me because I believe you can make your dad laugh or smile but you can't make him do something for you. Similarly I never knew if a teacher can make the principal to do something for him. Would you mind explaining it to me? Secondly he gave another example that goes, "The maid was made to clean the utensils" OALD shows "do the washing up" or "do the dishes" for this. I need to know if this (the example given by that teacher) could be correct by any chance. "the maid was made to clean the utensils" doesn't sound natural at all. Please explain how exactly we should say this.

It seems to me, that using "to" after go is not that common when speaking. I've heard it very often nowadays. The last time was in a movie called scape from planet earth, where a kid says to his father " we need to go save him" it sounds weird to me, but seems to be ok...Do you think it would be good, if I start using those expresions without to after go?  

Hello Piperacilina,
The example you give is an example of colloquial/quite informal English which may not be appropriate in all contexts.  It's actually an example of ellipsis - missing out words that the speaker thinks are not necessary for understanding.  Think of the sentence like this:
We need to go (and we need to) save him.
It's quite common in speech, especially in American English, to miss out the 'and' when we use 'go' like this.  For example:
Just go (and) talk to him.
Look, go (and) think about it at home.
I think you should go (and) see the doctor.
It's certainly fine for you to use the structure this way.  Just remember that not all sentences with 'go' work like this.  Use it when there is a 'go and do something' structure and remember that it is quite informal and generally not used very often in writing.
I hope that answers your question.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Ikrema,
Welcome to LearnEnglish. You've asked exactly the same question on another page. To save us time, could you please ask each question once only?
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Adam! I just checked, my question on the other page hasn't yet been answered. Is it because of the mistake I made of asking one question twice?

Not at all! We're a small team here, trying to do our best for hundreds of thousands of users. We can't answer the questions as quickly as we'd like - and sometimes we don't have time to answer all of them. However, if you're patient you should get an answer eventually.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Adam! I am so very sorry to have asked the same question twice. Since it was the very first time I'd ever been to this website, I didn't really know where to post my question. First I posted it on the home page then later, realizing I might not get it answered here, I did it here in the grammar section.