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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



Based on the explanation above, is it both correct to say "I always take a cold shower in the morning" and "I always have a cold shower in the morning?" If so, is there any difference in the meaning of these two sentences? Thanks

Hello lingskie,

Yes, that is correct. 'take' is more common in American English and 'have' is more common in British English, but both phrases are correct and have exactly the same meaning. 

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

I am a bit confused with take vs take up especially when using with course in university or college. I usually read on the internet these sentences: I am taking Biology in college and I am taking up Biology in college. But there are grammar books that say, "Never use take up if you are referring to a course that lead to a bachelor's degree. Could you please explain when to use TAKE vs TAKE UP when we are speaking or referring to a course? Thanks.

Hello lingskie,

Generally take up has a meaning of 'start' while take in this context simply means study. For example:

Paul is taking biology at university.

Paul took up photography a few months ago.


We generally use take up with hobbies rather than courses of study so we would not generally use it with a university degree course.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much sir for your explanation. Everything is clear now.

I am still getting the confusion on where do i use have like if I completed the repeated action 2 days before then what should I call ' I have completed' or 'I completed' and another question how do I know this is repeated action or normal action.can you please clarify my doubts if there is any links please suggest because it's irritating since the one week..

Hello nagabrahmam,

Your question is about when to use the present perfect ('I have completed') and when to use the past simple ('I completed'). In general terms, the past simple is used for finished events in the past; the present perfect is used for events which are not finished, or which have some kind of present result.

For example, if I want to tell you about something from my past then I would use the past simple:


I completed a course in first aid a few years ago.


On the other hand, if this information is somehow particularly relevant to the present then I would use the present perfect. For example, imagine there is an accident and someone is hurt. I might say:


Let me through. I've completed a course in first aid!


In other words, the past simple tells us about the past. The present perfect tells us why something in the past is affecting the present.


You can read more about the present perfect on this page, this page and this page.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Some of these verbs are also causative verbs. Can you suggest a good website or source which can explain causative verbs well?

Hello Nagma,

We do not recommend other websites as first of all they are generally commercial in nature and also because we can't guarantee the quality of their content. A search for 'causative verbs' will give you many results and you can choose sources with a good reputation such as well-known educational institutions (universities, for example), publishers and reputable media organisations (such as the BBC).


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


I like some help with this sentence.
"Please have John bring back all his toys." The word "have" is a helping verb?, what about the word "bring"? is there a name for this verb? is it suppose to be in 3rd person? "brings"