What is the difference between "tun", "machen", and "schaffen"?
I have seen those words as "do", for example, in
- Ich tue es. → I do it.
- Ich mache es selber. → I do it myself.
- Ich kann es schaffen. → I can do it.
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"Wir schaffen das" means: We will make it. I know that I will make it. We will achieve it.
"Wir tun es" is identical with "Wir machen es": We carry something out!
But there's a slight difference between tun (-> Tat) and machen:
(but only in certain cases!)
machen = to produce something
tun = to execute something
schaffen in that sense is rather idiomatic and doesn't compare well to tun and machen. Personally, I lexicalize it as reach, "bis ins Ziel geschaft", hence "ich schaffe es". That's probably closer to "etwas wohin schaffen" (to bring something somewhere). This sense might be influenced by schieben (to push, move); cp. to shove. The other, I might say regular, interpretation is found in erschaffen (create); cp. herstellen vs hinstellen.
I think tun is in many cases proscribed (forbidden), ie. it's never used as auxiliary and doesn't appear in composita (at least not frequently). In English, occasions of a bare do actually stem from an understanding of it replacing a complex verbal phrase. "Do I go to the shop? I do!" (or even "Yes, I am"; at least, I saw that once explained as standing in for a present continuous construction in a context where that tense hadn't even been used before). "tun" has gotten a connotation of pretension, "er tut nur so" (he's faking it). Plattdeutsch "tut das Not?" (ist das nötig - is that needed/necessary) is obviously closer to the English channel. The civil law code knows Tun only as noun or in "kundtun" (synonym "kundgeben", "bekannt geben"); Searching the text, I came to wonder whether -tung is a legitimate suffix related to thing ...
Whereas machen is used almost like an auxiliary verb, e.g. "Musik, Krach machen" (make music, noise), "Feierabend machen" (to end the workday), "bekannt machen" (to make known) and somewhat weird, IMHO, in "Aufwendungen ... gemacht" in the civil law code. In some cases it corresponds to haben "Freunde machen, Freunde haben" (to make friends, to have friends) and "Feierabend haben"; Not so for "Krach haben" (to have a disagreement). machen may be used in dialect as to go, "wir machen nach Leipzig" (we make for Leipzig), or perhaps "mach dich vom Acker" (get lost), "los machen" (to leave, make off). It's generally used colloquially for move, set, place, "mach das da hin", where others might prefer "tue/setze/stelle/lege das dorthin"; There's also "etwas ab machen" (to remove something [e.g. dirt from clothes]), "das geht nicht ab" (it doesn't come off) and more abstract verbal phrases like "eine Abmachung treffen", thus "etwas abmachen" (to make an appointent, agreement).
Along those lines, become vs bekommen and get should also be compared.