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I have found the following sentences:

Он делает салат.

Они готовят суп.

Она готовит десерт.

In my dictionary, делать means do or make while готовить means prepare. But how can I decide which to use to express these cooking situation?

2
  • You can always use готовить to express cooking.
    – Dmitry
    Nov 11 '15 at 12:52
  • 2
    @Blaszard: you use the Russian words in pretty much the same way as English "cook" and "make".
    – Quassnoi
    Nov 11 '15 at 14:02
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First of all, there are quite a few terms for specific cooking actions:

Кипятить -- to boil
Варить -- to cook smth. in boiling water
Жарить -- to roast
Тушить -- to stew with steam
Томить -- to stew without steam (i.e. on small fire)
Резать -- to chop
Печь -- to bake
...
and so on

So one may say, for example, Он режет салат or Они варят суп.

The verb готовить (or приготовить) is used for non-specific cooking action, just like to cook in English. You may use it nearly everywhere, except very minor work. For example, to make tea is usually заварить чай not приготовить чай, because making tea nowadays is rather primitive. Also by the same reason, warming up some half-stuff is разогреть not приготовить.

Делать (do, make) is an all-purpose tool which people may (and do) use as a substitute for приготовить (to cook) too. But there are two points to note. First, try not to be ambiguous, as делать + raw food may refer to producing such food. Yet as usually it's obvious from the context, what you mean, it's just a minor issue. People fail in this ten times a day, so no problem. Second, the imperative сделай is quite in use as an order to prepare smth. (e.g. boss' saying "make some coffee" would be "сделай кофе" in Russian). So sometimes you would rather choose the imperative приготовь over сделай, or at least add пожалуйста (please).

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  • It's important to notice that делать and готовить are not always interchangeable. "Сделай суп" sounds pretty weird. The correct form is "свари суп(у)". "Делать" when taking about preparing meals is used only for elementary dishes, like you mentioned — salades, coffee and that kinda thing.
    – Aleks N.
    Nov 12 '15 at 14:25
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The use of these two words in Russian is very similar to that in English: готовить is equivalent to prepare and делать to make. So you can say both

Она готовит десерт -- She is preparing the dessert
or
Она делает десерт -- She is making a dessert

However keep in mind that готовить is used much more than делать with respect to food. You are (probably always) safe when using the former but need to know exactly when the latter is OK.

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As for me, the main difference is that "приготовить" takes more effort than "сделать", so you will probably say "сделать" if it's something pretty simple (at least for you). Consequently, if you are talking about someone else, it's better to use "готовить" unless you are talking about really simple things (sandwiches, tea, coffee, etc.).

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In these cases they are interchangeable but you should bear in mind that готовить in the sense of making is specific to food. And you can say the both ways about dishes but you cannot say делает about raw products.

Она готовит мясо. = She is cooking the meat.

This is correct.

Она делает мясо. = She is making the meat.

This is incorrect unless she is creating artificial meat.

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  • as for me, делать мясо is pretty correct, though it is used not so widely. At least, if anyone uses it, I would not mind it Nov 11 '15 at 15:06

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