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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



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.



The LearnEnglish Team

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,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much Mr Kirk..

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.

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!



The LearnEnglish Team

The best!

very good

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