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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

have

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

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take

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
care of
a turn
turns
trouble
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

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Delexical verbs 3: have and take

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give

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

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make

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

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Delexical verbs 6: give and make

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go

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

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do

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

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Delexical verbs 9: go and do

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Comments

Hi,
What is the difference between 'Who drank my coffee?' and 'Who did drink my coffee?'. When would you use these examples? Is the difference something to do with the object (coffee) itself? Thanks!

Hi TB01,
The difference is not to do with the object, but with how strong we want the sentence to sound.  It's possible to use auxiliary verbs in positive sentences to add emphasis, as in your second sentence.
If you were just asking the question normally, then you'd use the first sentence ('Who drank my coffee?').  If, on the other hand, you want to make the question more insistent - perhaps because you've asked several times and you still can't find out - then you might use the second question.  The meaning would be something like 'So, who really drank it, then?'
I hope this clarifies it for you.
Best wishes,
 
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Peter - very helpful!

I feel very happy today as I joined with this, really thank you very much, I can gain lots of thing from here to improve my English knowledge

 

Thanks 

Tharaka

Hello Tharaka,
We're very happy to hear that you feel that way! Welcome to LearnEnglish.
Best wishes,
Adam
The LearnEnglish Team

i get 100scors at verbs 2, but verbs, 66%.

mi punctuation in excellent. i really like this activities in order to improve my english knowledge. to give better classes. i teach at home. isn't it great. '?
 bye see you soon. mateo's

You have a great website!

Hi guys, what about "have a shower" instead of take. More often my colleagues used have (for shower only). Greetings from Poland :)  Aga

Hello Aga, and greetings from LearnEnglish!

You're perfectly right - in British English, we often use have a shower instead of take. Are your colleagues from the UK, or did they study British English?

Regards
 
Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

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