Brittany J. Vincent
Make Due vs. Make Do
Is the proper phrase make due or make do?
This common idiom conundrum has stumped many writers, so let’s break it down.
Make is a verb meaning to begin or to cause to happen. Due is an adjective meaning owed or having reached a date.
The idiom is supposed to signify that you’ll manage or get along with whatever you have at hand. Do is a verb meaning to bring about, perform, or execute. Thus, make do is the proper usage.
Example: We’re almost out of wrapping paper, but we’ll find some way to make do.
Why is make due so often confused with make do? The answer is the latter didn’t become the correct spelling until the early 1900s. Make due, historically, was frequently used until that point. Nowadays, when saying you’ll make due something, it usually features a noun or pronoun (e.g., it) in the phrase to specify the subject is owed or expected to occur.
Example: Let’s make the final report due by the end of the month.
Source: Christine Ammer, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), 285.