You’re making me crazy

You’re making me crazy.

Another big difference between German and English that tends to stump some of my language learners involves the use of the verb make or machen in German.  Many individuals attempt to take machen and use the verb make in its place in English.  However, make as a verb can be used in a number of different ways that don’t always line up with the German usage.  So, let’s go through some of the tricks to using make correctly in English.

  1. For starters, make is an irregular verb in English. That means that you can’t just add -ed at the end to make the past tense.  Instead the past tense of make is made.
  2. The literal meaning of make is “to produce or create something.” However, this meaning is not common in everyday speech. The main way that it is used is to describe a company or firm physically making a product.  For example, Volkswagen makes cars that are sold around the world.
  3. So if English speakers aren’t using make in the sense of creating something, then how are they using it? Instead, English speakers often use make to suggest different meanings. They show these meanings by using one of a number of noun phrases after the verb.  Together, these make+noun phrase structures have an idiomatic. In other words, the structure make+ a noun phrase often has a meaning other than what the individual words suggest.  There are many different meanings of the structure make+ a noun phrase. 

a. Perform an Action

One common meaning of make is this: to perform an action.  Make has this meaning when it is followed by a noun phrase such as the bed or a telephone call.  Some examples are, “I make my bed every morning before I leave for work.” Or in the workplace, “I need to make a phone call before the meeting starts.”

In these examples, using make indicates that you need to perform an action, such as picking up the phone and dialing a number to speak with another person.

b. Plan or decide to do something

A second meaning of the verb make is to plan or decide to do something. Make has this meaning when followed by a noun phrase such as an appointment, plans to, or a decision to.

For example, you are packing for your vacation that starts tomorrow, when a friend texts asking if you want to see a move tomorrow.  You would respond, “Sorry, but I have already made plans.”  This means that you have already decided to do something, such as, go on vacation in this case.

Additionally, this structure is also used frequently in a business setting, such as, “Audi has made plans to open up a new factory in April 2018.”  Or, “The committee has made a decision to go forward with the project beginning next quarter.”

Now you know that they have the basic meaning of planning or deciding to do something.

c. Earn money

A third common meaning of make is this: to earn money. Make has this meaning when followed by noun phrases such as a living, money, or a profit.

So for example, an individual may say, “I am applying for this position, so that I can make a career in the energy sector.”  Or a financial analyst at a firm may say, “Based upon my calculations the company has made a profit last year on the new project.”

So next time you are watching a TV show or reading an article in English, try to stop and determine which way they are using make and how it is different from the verb, machen.