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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



thanks to the learnEnglish Team


Could you explain the rules regarding the use of 'to' before a verb?
Compare the following two sentences, for example:

The man told the children to play outside.

The man made the children play outside.

Why do we use 'to' before the verb 'play' in the first sentence but not the other?

Best wishes,


Hi lexeus,

Some verbs (such as 'make') are followed by an infinitive without to; other verbs are followed by an infinitive with to.  I'm afraid there is no rule which will enable you to work out which verbs are which; you simply have to learn and remember them.

There are some tendencies which can be helpful.  For example, verbs related to thinking, feeling and saying are often followed by an infinitive with to.  Examples include: choose, decide, expect, forget, hate, hope, intend, learn, like, love, mean, plan, prefer, remember, want, would like, would love, agree, promise, refuse, advise, ask, encourage, invite, order, persuade, remind, tell, warn, expect, intend, would prefer, want and would like.

For more information on and examples of which verbs are followed by this pattern, take a look at this page and this page.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

hello. i want to ask you about the sentence " i'd like to... ". i mean, why we use 'do' before the verb 'like'?

Hello franciellas,

In the phrase "I'd like to", the 'd is not a contraction of do but rather of would. "I would like to" is a polite way of saying "I want to".

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Learn English Team,this exercise are very intersting and helpful for learners but still i want to ask you like have is use with a meal,breakfast,a bath etc etc..and make is use with a comment,a choice,an appointment etc etc and others as same as.i want to know that these are complusory to use with these words..and tell me is these sentences are correct for eg :
1)Make a cooment on my pic.
2)you should make an enquiry of the time of train.
3)I made a promise for best result.
4)I am confused,you make a choice.
thanks in advance and i hope you get that what i wanna ask to you..

Hello birds,

In general, it's important to use the correct delexical verb. There are some instances where there is more than one option (e.g. take a bath and have a bath are both used), and there are others where people might understand despite an incorrect delexical verb, but using the wrong delexical verb often could result in confusion - e.g. make a bath or go a bath might not be understood, or might be understood as meaning something else.

You selected the correct delexical verbs in the four sentences you wrote.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Learn English team!
These are very good explanations but, unfortunately, I can't see the exercises because they are in flash and some mobile devices (the one of Apple) don't read it, is it possible to see them somewhere else with another program?

Hi dina,

At the moment, there is no way to view these exercises on devices that don't support Flash, but we are working on a solution to this problem. I can't make any promises, but we hope for this problem to be solved early in 2014.

We do have some apps developed specifically for iOS - these are on our Apps page.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Is there any difference between "We usually go walking at weekends" and "We usually walk at weekends" semantically? 
Thank you.