Dear experts,

May we assume that the expressions below are freely interchangeable in both meanings syntactical variants:

do the dishes
do up the dishes

do up the dishes - 1. wash (and dry) the plates, dishes, etc. after a meal: Dad came over and did up the dishes, mopped the kitchen floor, and even vacuumed the living room.

2. cook meals: The food-menu consists of vegetarian dishes done-up in various manners.


Thank you,

Last edited {1}
Original Post
It's "do the dishes."

The Grammar Exchange hasn't found "do up the dishes" in any of its references; however, a creative speaker might add the particle "up" to broaden or intensify the meaning of a verb even though the expression has not (yet) become part of the English lexicon.

In your sentence, if you should add the particle "up," it would slightly change the idea: it might imply cleaning up a lot of dishes, more than the normal number, and perhaps not even directly after a meal, possibly the next day.

The phrasal verb "do up" has this meaning according to the American Heritage Dictionary*:

"1. Fasten up or put up; also, dress up. For example, Let's do up all the gifts in matching paper, or Please help me do up the collar button, or Jane did up her hair for the dance, or The children were all done up in their best outfits."

"Do up" can also refer to extensive work on a decorating project. The Collins COBUILD* includes this definition:

"If you do up an old building, you decorate and repair it so that it is in a better condition; used mainly in British English. Nicholas has bought a barn in Provence and is spending August doing it up. "

"Do up the dishes" might be more easily said, if at all, in British English than in American English.
As for "make the dishes," it doesn't happen. You make the beds and do the dishes.

You could "make a dish" referring to making a particular plate of food as in:

Grandma makes a wonderful dish every week when we go there for dinner.

*The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. 1997 Houghton Mifflin Company.
**The Collins COBUILD English Dictionary. HarperCollins. 1995

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I would just add that the particle "up" often adds to a verb of action the idea of "completely." It stresses the finishing of the task. For example

A couple of the guests helped me, so I was able to do up the dishes in no time

Marilyn Martin

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