Friday, November 30, 2012

Hot verbs, empty verbs - Exercises with do, give, have, make, take

A look at some common uses of the verbs
do, give, have, make, take
with lots of exercises for advanced students

This lesson is for advanced students.

If you are not at advanced level, you might be better trying some of the exercises linked to at the end of this post. Some of the exercises here are quite challenging.
A couple of people have landed on this blog after googling 'hot verbs'. This is not a term I'm very familiar with, so I thought I'd better check it out.

Hot verbs

As far as I can see, the term hot verb is mainly used the in the New Headway series of course books for a few high-frequency verbs. They include both literal use and an 'empty' meaning which I'll discuss in a moment. In various units I've been able to find the following:
come, do, get, go, have, make, take, put
Apart from this, I've found an exercise at the Folkuniversitetet of Estonia on what they call hot verbs - do, get, make, take. A few other websites also refer to these four verbs as hot verbs. Most of the other references I've seen are simply questions on language forums asking what hot verbs are.

Delexicalised verbs

Occasionally people talk about delexicalised verbs. These are verbs that carry very little meaning. An article at the British Council website, for example, lists: get, go, take, make, do, have, give, set, put.

Empty verbs

Other people, for example English Result Upper-intermediate, use the term empty verbs with the same meaning. English Result lists: have, take, make, give. This is a bit less of a mouthful than delexicalised verbs, so that's the expression I'll use.

Light verbs

This is an expression commonly used by linguists to refer to delexicalised or empty verbs. Wikipedia and agree on the main ones - do, give, have, make, take, although Wikipedia also includes get.

So what's so special about empty / light verbs?

These are verbs that are frequently used in everyday expressions. Grammarian Martin Parrot, the inventor of the term empty verb, says "they contribute little or no meaning to the expression". The real meaning is usually contained in the word(s) that collocate with the empty verb.
For example, we often use an empty verb plus noun rather than the corresponding action verb:
  • do - He's doing the washing up / the dishes - (he's washing up)
  • give - She gave him a hug - (she hugged him)
  • have - They're having lunch - (they're lunching)
  • make - He made a complaint to the manager. - (he complained)
  • take - She took a shower. - (she showered)

What about get?

We also use get in a lot of expressions such as get wet, get lost and get married. Here the verb doesn't carry a lot of meaning, but it is not entirely 'empty', as in these expressions it has one of its base meanings - become. It is also used reflexively in such expressions as get washed, get dressed etc.
I've already devoted a post to this versatile verb (see below), so it won't feature very heavily here.

Do empty verbs have no meaning at all then?

They are not entirely without meaning, as can be seen in the difference between these two sentences. And in most uses, the choice of empty verb seems to make some sense, to this native speaker at least.
  • She took a bath (take = She bathed herself)
  • She gave the child a bath (give = She bathed somebody else)

Other verbs

There are a few other verbs used like empty verbs, especially in certain expressions. These include come, pay, put. And there are quite a few expressions with go.

Lists of collocations with empty verbs

After the exercises you'll find some lists of common collocations with empty verbs. But try the exercises before you look.

Make or do?

These verbs can prove especially tricky, as many languages have one verb for both. As a rough guide, use the verb 'do' when speaking about things in general. In other words, when we do not exactly name an activity. This form is often used with the words 'something, nothing, anything, everything, etc.'
  • If you're not doing anything today, we could go to the beach.
  • He is doing everything he can to help.
  • She does nothing all day except complain.
  • Could you do something for me?
Make suggests creating something physical, but this is not always the case.

Make or do?

Exercise 1a - choose the correct option

1.... up your jacket / shoes (fasten)
2.... an exception
3.... 60 kph
4.... some good
5.... trouble
6.... (the) arrangements
7.... your hair / nails
8.... the accounts (add up figures)
9.... an enquiry (ask for information)
10.... up your mind
11.... an attempt (to do sth)
12.... a dance (eg on stage)
13.... a promise
14.... a mess
15.... a university degree

Exercise 1b - choose the correct option

1.... the ironing / washing etc
2.... a fuss
3.... fun of somebody
4.... a lot of damage / harm
5.... a move
6.Let's play ... believe (pretend)
7.... your apologies to somebody
8.... up a room (decorate)
9.... time (= spend time in prison)
10.... an effort (to do sth)
11.... a difference
12.... the best of sth (for example a bad situation)
13.... your best
14.... somebody a good turn / a favour
15.... a start

Have, take or both?

Exercise 2a - Choose the correct option

1.... breakfast / lunch / dinner
2.... sth into consideration
3.... a sniff / a taste of sth
4.... a quarrel / row / an argument
5.... a break / nap / rest
6.... fun (i.e. enjoy yourself)
7.... a drive
8.... a seat
9.... a party
10.... care
11.... a read (of sth)
12.... a think (about sth)
13.... a lie-down
14.... a look (at sth)
15.... responsibility (for)

Exercise 2b - Choose the correct option

1.... a (good) cry
2.... sb out for a drink
3.... a swim
4.... a chat / talk / conversation / discussion
5.... a bath / shower
6.... care of sth
7.... it easy
8.... a meeting
9.... a walk / stroll
10.They've decided to ... the plunge
11.... a smoke
12.... a rest
13.... a haircut
14.... a photo
15.... a peep (a quick and/or secret look)

Make, take or both?

Exercise 3 - Choose the correct option

1.... action
2.... an appointment
3.... an attempt
4.... certain / sure
5.... a complaint
6.... the lead
7.... a decision
8.... exercise
9.... headway
10.... a list
11.... notes
12.... a picture / photo
13.... a point
14.... somebody's point
15.... a test

Have or give?

Exercise 4 - Choose the correct option

1.... a bath
2.... somebody a bath
3.I'll ... you an example
4.Do you ... any examples?
5.... somebody a kiss
6.... birth to a baby
7.... a haircut
8.... a shout / yell / scream
9.... somebody a haircut
10.These ... priority over those.
11.Could you ... this priority, please.
12.I don't ... a damn / a toss.
13.... a read of this.
14.I think I'll ... it a miss.

On the phone

Exercise 5a - Enter a verb from the box to complete each sentence

give   ·   have   ·   do   ·   make   ·   take  
1. I'll just be a minute. I need to a phone call.
2. My phone credit could with a top-up.
3. That's the phone ringing, can you it? I'm busy.
4. Call me tomorrow and we'll a chat.
5. Why don't you me a call tomorrow.

Exercise 5b - Complete each sentence with a suitable verb in a suitable form

come   ·   do   ·   get   ·   give   ·   go   ·   have   ·   make   ·   take  
A. Hi, Betty, do you (1)  a moment to talk.
B. Sure Angie, what can I (2)  for you?
A. I was wondering if you'd (3)  up your mind yet about the weekend.
B. Yes. I've (4)  a talk with Dave, and we'd love to come. I'm sure it will (5)  us all a lot of good to (6)  out into the country for a few days. We were beginning to (7)  on each others' nerves being all cooped up in two rooms while they're (8)  alterations to the flat. And it'll (9)  a nice change not to have to (10)  the cooking for once.
A. Yes, I can imagine. We're (11)  a bit bored here ourselves. It will (12)  a nice break. I'm sure we'll all (13)  a lot of fun on the farm. And we'll be able to (14)  lots of cycling and (15)  for lots of walks. It will certainly (16)  amends for all those weeks of hard work. It's been really (17)  my head in!
B. Quite! I think I'll (18)  crazy if I don't (19)  away for a few days. Don't (20)  me wrong, I love this job, but there (21)  a time when you need a break. And it would be a shame not to (22)  advantage of this lovely weather. By the way, I was thinking we could (23)  you a hand with the arrangements if you like.
A. No, that's fine, we can manage. I'll (24)  back in touch with you once I've (25)  the reservation

An office meeting

Exercise 6 - fill gaps with suitable forms of the verbs in the box.

do   ·   get   ·   give   ·   go   ·   have   ·   make   ·   take  
OK, everyone, I'd like to (1)  this meeting under way now, so could you all (2)  your seats please. And Peter, could I ask you to (3)  the minutes, please.
We're (4)  this meeting today to discuss next month's product launch. Now, I can't stress how important it is that nothing (5)  wrong with this, and I'd like you all to (6)  me a big favour and (7)  a huge effort to ensure that everything (8)  smoothly. And if I could (9)  a suggestion - try and (10)  all your staff behind you on this one.
The good news is we've (11)  a deal with a local printers for publicity material. Sammy, could you and your people (12)  a think about what's to go into the brochures and (13)  something ready for us to (14)  a look at before you (15)  the final arrangements with the printers.
We'll be inviting the press to the launch of course. Pat, could you (16)  responsibility for that side of things. We want to (17)  (create) a good impression, of course, but I think we'll (18)  the Champagne a miss this year, what with funds being so limited.
Now we need to (19)  into consideration that there's still a little work to be (20)  on the product itself, and we may need to (21)  some last-minute changes. Mike will be (22)  us some examples of possible changes later. But so far, everything (23)  the impression of being under control.
Next week, Dave's department will be (24)  an overall progress review and we can (25)  another chat about everything then.
The only other thing I'd like to say at the moment, is to ask you all to (26)  this top priority and (27)  your best to (28)  this launch a great success.
So, now's the time to (29)  any comments , and then we'll take a short break for coffee. After that, Sue will (30)  us a short presentation on expected sales of the new product.

Sentence transformation

All the expressions used in these two exercises can be found in the collocations selection below.

Exercise 7a - Complete the second sentence so it has a similar meaning to the first, using the word(s) given. Don't change the word given. Use between two and five words, inclusing the words given.

1. I'm going to lie down for a bit.
I'm going for a bit.
2. He got very rich from his business.
He from his business
3. That noise is really annoying me. Can't you turn it off?
That noise is really Can't you turn it off?
4. Can you wipe the table for me?
Can you for me?
5. I think we should start right away.
I think we should right away.
6. They were relaxing by the pool.
They by the pool.
7. Have you decided yet?
Have you yet?
8. We've made a mistake somewhere.
We've somewhere.
9. They've been redecorating their house.
They've been their house.
10. They formally agreed to get married last week.
They last week.

Exercise 7b - Complete the second sentence so it has a similar meaning to the first, using the word(s) given. Don't change the word given. Use between two and five words, inclusing the words given.

1. The pianist performed very badly last night.
The pianist last night.
2. They were quarreling loudly when I passed.
They were when I passed.
3. Look after yourself now.
yourself now.
4. I'll just stir the sauce first.
I'll just first.
5. Did you contact Helen?
Did you Helen?
6. I'll call you when I return home.
I'll call you when home.
7. Now go off and enjoy yourselves at the party.
Now go off and at the party.
8. He sat down and waited.
He and waited.
9. They had a stroll in the afternoon.
They in the afternoon.
10. The child hugged her father and laughed happily.
The child and laughed happily.

The verb give with two objects

We saw in Exercise 4 that give can be used with certain action nouns such as shout, hug and kiss. This structure is often used with two objects. In an informal style we can also use give + indirect object + action noun instead of a transitive verb such as kick, push, shove, clean and wash.

Exercise 8 - Enter a noun from the box to complete each sentence.

brush   ·   clean   ·   hand   ·   iron   ·   kick   ·   miss   ·   nudge   ·   polish   ·   push   ·   ring   ·   smile   ·   tidy   ·   try   ·   wave   ·   wink  
1. Can you give me a moving this sofa?
2. He gave the coffee vending machine a sharp .
3. When it wouldn't start, we all helped to give the car a .
4. The little girl looked at him and gave him a shy .
5. We need to give this room a good before my parents arrive.
6. She gave him a final as the train pulled out of the station.
7. I think I'll give this film a . I've seen it before.
8. I'll just give this shirt a quick so you can wear it this evening.
9. Give me a tomorrow and we'll talk about it then.
10. We could go to that new restaurant. - Good idea. Let's give it a .
11. Can you give the carpet a quick with the hoover?
12. My wife gave me a quick in the ribs to shut me up.
13. Go and give your hair a good before we go out.
14. And give your shoes a while you're at it.
15. When I saw her at work the next day, she gave me an encouraging .

Take and have - British American differences

In Britain, we often say have a bath, shower, rest, holiday etc. In North American English, they usually use the verb take with these.

See a selection of collocations with do, get, give, have, make, take etc

Select a verb



Related posts


Hot verbs

Empty verbs

Light verbs

Make or do

Collocation finders


JV1987 said...

Great post - great blog!
You're basically doing what I'm trying to do here (, but you're doing it better!!

Warsaw Will said...

Thanks. I had a quick look and you've got some interesting links. I love the way you did the Shakespeare quotes notebook, and I'm a big fan of that Stephen Fry paean to the joy of language typography video as well.

Anonymous said...

Thank you really much! Your materials are invaluable for me - I use them a lot in my classes with Advanced students! This post is one of my favourites) I can 't thank you enough!