Make do is the standard form of the idiom that means “to manage to live without things that you would like to have or with things of a worse quality than you would like” (Cambridge Dictionary), “to manage with whatever is available” (Collins Dictionary), or “to meet one’s day-to-day needs” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
None of these dictionaries contains its alternate form, make due. So the case seems pretty straightforward: “make do” is correct, “make due” is not. This article could end right now.
It’s not simple. Numerous English language users still use “make due” and have some logical assertions. Language learning forums are full of opinions on this matter. Some reputable newspapers sometimes publish articles that contain “make due” instead of “make do” to make things more complicated.
History of “make do” vs. “make due”
The usage history of the term gives us a helpful perspective. “Make do” was commonly used in the 18th century. In the 19th and half of the 20th century, “make due” was a more frequently used form in writing, and the occurrence of “make do” was close to zero. But in the 21st century, “make do” became the standard form.
Making do with what you have
The meaning of “make do” can help us see the logic behind this idiom more clearly. It means getting along with inadequate means or functioning on a deprivation level.
If you’d like to use a synonym instead, you can say “manage,” “improvise,” “cope,” or “muddle through.”
Examples of “make do” in sentences
My smartphone is broken, so I have to make do with this old feature phone.
The recipe requires a rare spice that I can’t find in a local store. I guess I have to make do with a substitute.
It’s not easy to make do during the war.
The situation is challenging, and we don’t have the means, but we have to make do.
It’s so hard, but I’ll make do.
I can’t afford a luxury car, so I have to make do with this one.
It’s not perfect, but it’ll make do.
He had to make do with the result.
Until the situation changes, they just have to make do.