Delexical verbs: 'have', 'take', 'make', 'give', 'go' and 'do'

Learn about the delexical verbs have, take, make, give, go and do and do the exercises to practise using them.

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:

  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

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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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Submitted by Tim on Mon, 05/07/2021 - 01:28

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Hi in the following sentences could someone guide me if the verb is transitive or intransitive. 1) The crow was flying high in the sky. 2) He was jumping on the floor. Going through variation exercises on the internet I came across these and a few more. These two sentences in particular have left me confused. Could someone please guide me as to why the verb in the above sentences are transitive or intransitive.

Hi Tim,

You've already posted this question on another page. Please post questions once only. Multiple posting like this only slows the reply process down.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by HEMAM on Thu, 18/03/2021 - 04:11

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Hello Sir We use noun form of verbs only with " have/take " ? we can't say give a look ?

Hello Hemam,

The first sentence of this page doesn't mean that only 'have' and 'take' are used this way; it just gives two examples instead of all of them. If you read further in the explanation, you'll see that 'give' is also used as a delexical verb. There are examples of it being used this way in the table above.

People would understand 'give a look', but it sounds a little odd to me. I'd say 'have' or 'take' with 'a look'.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

We sometimes use give with the noun verb look, I think it may be colloquial usage though. I've heard people say 'give it a look', as in 'I'll give it a look' or 'I'll look at it for you'. Similar expressions are 'give it a go' meaning try it, or 'give it a whirl', with the same meaning.

Submitted by xeesid on Sat, 22/08/2020 - 12:48

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Dear sir, What is the best way to tell someone to give a patient the medicine? 1. Have him take medicine. 2. Make him take medicine. 3. Get him to take medicine. 4. Give him medicine to take. Note the situation please. The nurse for example will give the syrup bottle to the patient, and the patient will himself drink that syrup.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 23/08/2020 - 08:02

In reply to by xeesid

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Hello xeesid,

In the context you provide, I think only the second one sounds a little odd as make suggests forcing someone to do something that they do not want to do. Even if a patient is unwilling, the sentence would not be formed in this way in a doctor's surgery.

Note that we would say the medicine in each case.

 

You could also say the following:

Ask him to take the medicine.

Tell him to take the medicine.

 

Most simply, you could say:

Give him the medicine.

The context would make it clear that the patient should take the medicine rather than simply leave with the bottle!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jostev on Sun, 08/12/2019 - 06:19

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When did the word ”do” become the meaning ”have” in the phrase, ”Let’s do lunch.” ?

Hello Jostev

I'm not a lexicologist, but I believe this particular expression came in to use in the 1980s. Note that while it does mean 'have lunch', to my ears, at least, it makes the lunch sound like a task. Not necessarily a task that you don't want to do, just that there's some other motivation behind it than just getting together and socialising.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by PAVS on Fri, 04/10/2019 - 00:14

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Is "take a decision" actually correct? I've read many English blogs where they said is incorrect.

Hello PAVS,

Both 'take a decision' and 'make a decision' are correct. 'Make a decision' is a little less common, but is fine.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ABDO HASSAN on Tue, 29/01/2019 - 11:16

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The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered "Man! Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies HAVING never really lived. What's the meaning of having here

Hello Abdo Hassan

Here, 'having' is part of the adverbial participle clause 'having never really lived'. It describes the manner in which such a person lives, i.e. he or she lives without really living. See our participle clauses page for more examples.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Marua on Tue, 03/04/2018 - 08:56

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Hello. Can we use this expression 'make a right' instead of 'turn right'? And what about 'turn first right' instead of 'take the first turning on the right'?! Thanks.
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Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 03/04/2018 - 17:24

In reply to by Marua

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Hi Marua,

Yes, 'make a right' is correct and natural. The other two phrases are a bit awkward -- I'd recommend 'take the first right' instead.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by amol on Thu, 29/03/2018 - 06:18

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Hello, Can we use "has" to show possession? For e.g, She has a brother. Is the above sentence correct? or "She have a brother" is correct?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 29/03/2018 - 08:51

In reply to by amol

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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'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by zakarek on Tue, 02/01/2018 - 03:46

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Hello LearnEnglish Team. Shall I understand I have a meal. but 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. or 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,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team