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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 amol,

You can check the meaning of 'have' in any dictionary.

The third-person form of 'have' is 'has', so for she we use 'has' rather than 'have'.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello LearnEnglish Team.
Shall I understand
I have a meal.
I have lunch.
If yes, so why? 'I have a lunch' would have different meaning/ is archaic/ is uncomm /for some reasons is wrong. In this situation
I have English breakfast.
I have an English breakfast.
because I understand it should be always
I have a huge breakfast.
And now to the question than dragged me here in a first place.
I am having a tea.
but never
I am having tea.
Am I right?
(of course we are talking about small amount brewed tea no uncountable amount of dry leaves, so in meaning 'I am drinking now').
Does American-English change here anything?

Hello zakarek,

Generally, we do not use articles with the names of meals. Thus we say

I'm having breakfast.

We're having lunch together tomorrow.

but we also say

I had a meal before I left, so I'm not hungry.


However, when we use an adjective to describe the meal we use the indefinite article:

That was a marvellous dinner, wasn't it?

I'm going to have a huge lunch today. I'm starving!

I love an English breakfast.


Both '...tea. and '...a tea' are possible but there can be a difference in meaning:

I'm having tea describes the 'meal', so to speak, rather than the beverage. In other words, this describes the tradition of sitting down to have a cup of tea, perhaps with cake, biscuits or a sandwhich, in the afternoon.

You can also say I'm having coffee with him tomorrow, which would refer to a meeting over coffee rather than a particular drink. Tea and coffee are the only words used frequently in this way; with other drinks we use 'a' (I'm having a beer with her tonight).

I'm having a tea describes the choice of drink. You might say this when choosing something from a menu, or when describing your activity on the phone to someone who cannot see what you are drinking.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello dear team,
Nice to meet you here again and ofcourse
Thank you very much for your answers.
But we have problems about "have". This word really contains "problem" with us. We are need help.

Every package have to be returned to the sender.

Every package has to be returned to the sender.

… ..
How many mistakes have the teacher found in the class?
How many mistakes has the teacher found in the class?

Which ones is correct "Have" or "has" ? And why?

Thank you very much team.

Hello fahri,

In both cases, 'has' is correct because its subject ('every package' and 'the teacher') is singular. I hope this helps you.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

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.