< To Do or Create?
By Faith Pirlo
13 January 2023

Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we will answer a question about the difference between "create" and "do."


Hello Learning English,

Ask a Teacher: To Do or Create?
Ask a Teacher: To Do or Create?

I would like to ask you about the word "essay." Do we say, "create an essay" or "do an essay?"

Thank you for your help,



Dear Mekhpara,

This is a great question, and one that we actually have not talked about. Your question is less about the word "essay," and more about the choice of which verb to use, "do" or "create."

Let's look at each of these more closely. Let's start with "do."


The verb "do" is an irregular verb that has many uses.

We use "do" for actions that we are required or must do and for general activities that we often repeat.

I will do the dishes tonight after dinner.

We also use "do" to show the completion or achievement of things.

Is that report done?

Sometimes we use "do" for talking about a job or for studying.

What did you do at your last job?

We can use "do" to mean "produce" something, like an essay or something artistic. We use it in place of more specific verbs that focus on the operative action. Using "do" focuses more on the general action or completion of the action.

I'm doing my essay this weekend, so I do not have to worry about it over spring break.

I'm writing my essay this weekend, so I do not have to worry about it over spring break.

She did the painting in watercolors.

She painted in watercolors.

This brings us to "create."


To "create" something means to bring something new into existence. When we think of "create," we think of something new that has not been produced before.

To "create" something requires imagination, a special skill or talent, a new method, or a unique process.

Heather likes to create new dances for her students.

She created the recipe from just 5 simple ingredients.

We can "create" an essay. For example, your teacher might ask you to "create" an essay about a problem or a solution.

But think about the actions that you perform to "create" the essay. You might research the subject, form ideas about how to express yourself and more. Yet finally, to create an essay you must write. This is the required action and the more specific verb.

So just like "do" is a less specific verb, here "create" is the less specific verb for the entire process of writing an essay.

Tony is writing an essay about climate change.

I wrote many essays in college.

Please let us know if these explanations and examples have helped you, Mekhpara.

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at learningenglish@voanews.com

And that's Ask a Teacher.

I'm Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

essay - n. a piece of writing that tells a person's thoughts or opinions about a subject

irregular adj. not following the usual rules about what should be done

achievement – n. a thing that is completed successfully

watercolorsn. colored paints combined with water or a wet brush to create an effect

unique – adj. used to say that something or someone is unlike anything or anyone else

ingredient n. one of the things that are used to make a food, product, etc

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