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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



Is it more correct to say take photos or make photos?

Hello Ilariuccia,

As you can see in the example sentence for 'photo' in the dictionary, 'take' is used with 'photo'. Although 'make' is comprehensible, it's not typically used by native speakers.

Best regards,
The LearnEnglish Team

please i need to know why we use the past simple "had" instead of past perfect "I'd had "with the following sentence
I had a good breakfast before I left home.

Hello hamadbaghdadi,

You could in fact say 'I'd had a good breakfast' here. In that case, the past perfect would put a bit of emphasis on the fact that I breakfasted before leaving, as if clarifying it due to some confusion. If you're simply describing what you did that morning, though, the simple past is the most appropriate choice in most situations.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello The LearnEnglish Team,

I have a double about the correction of this sentence: Tom and Mary go to take two glasses of water. As I heard somebody said that the verb "take" includes the meaning of "go". It is better to remove the verb "go". Please tell me whether the above sentence is right or wrong. If it is right, please tell the difference between using "go" and not using "go" in this case for more understand. Thank you so much.

Hello thanhphuong,

'take' has several different meanings and many, many uses. Have you looked it up in our dictionary search box on the lower right side of this page? There you can see that one of its primary meanings involves the idea of movement from one place to another.

Your sentence sounds a bit unnatural, but I'm not sure what to recommend because I'm not sure what you want to say. If, for example, Tom and Mary go to a place where there are glasses of water, pick up two waters and then go to another place, your sentence would be correct. But if Tom and Mary are sitting in a room and someone brings some water into the room, sets it on a table and invites them to drink, I'd recommend something like 'Tom and Mary went to get two glasses of water'. (This implies that they got up from their seats, went to the table, picked up glasses of water and returned to their seats.

If you had something else in mind, please describe it and we'll help you understand how to say it.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi LearnEnglishTeam,

Does adding helping verb 'do' with main verb 'have' in sentences become different from sentences having main verb 'have' without any helping verb at all?

1.I do have friends.
2.I have friends.
3.I do have friends sometimes. ->this with adverb 'sometimes'
4.I have friends sometimes. ->this with adverb 'sometimes'

Can we make out any difference between these sentences?

Thanks and regards,

Hi Nandish,

We can add the auxiliary verb in this way when we want to emphasise that what we are saying is true, particularly if it has been questioned in some way. For example:

I have friends.

No, you don't! You haven't got any friends.

I do have friends!

We would not use 'sometimes' in this context, however, as we assume that friendship, by its nature, is constant rather than temporary or fleeting.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


Hello dear BC Team,
this lesson is one of the best here for me and really helpfull one. I learnt a lot from it. Thank you for clear explanations!! Anyway I have some doubts and hope you will help me.

First, why should we use delexical verbs when, sometimes, there is a verb that can stand without a noun. For example a) "We had a long talk about the problem" Could we say b)"We talked a lot about the problem". Is the first sentence just to stress that we had a long conversation?

Second, I saw this sentence on internet and it appeared as correct "Do you mind taking a photo for us?" I think it should be "Do you mind taking a photo of us?" -it refers to a question when you ask someone to do a favor for you.

Third, am I right about this.
1) I’m thirsty. I’m going to have a drink of water. (=I am going to drink it)
2)I'm thirsty. I'm going to have a glass of juice. (=I am going to order it, and then I will drink it)

Sory for many questions, these days I practise grammar so I have some doubts to clear it out. If I bother you, please let me know. All the best.

Hello swxswx,

Languages always have several ways of expressing things. Variety allows us to change emphasis, use different styles and avoid sounding repetitive, so it's no surprise that there are different ways of saying the same thing. However, sometimes there is also a difference in meaning. As you say, 'We had a long talk about the problem' suggests one conversation, while 'We talked a lot about the problem' could mean one or multiple conversations.

In your second question, '...for us' would mean helping us, but not necessarily taking a photo with us in it. It could be that the other person is better at taking photos, or is taller, or has a camera and we do not, and so we ask them. If we say '...of us' then we mean that we are to be in the photo.

The third pair of sentences have the same meaning. Both could mean ordering or simply drinking; it depends on the context.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team