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My dictionary, along with many websites I've checked translates 制作 as

  • to make
  • to manufacture

What sorts of things may I 制作?

The second definition of "manufacture" leads me to believe that, for example, "I made new flash cards."/「我制作了新的词卡。」, is too small-scale a thing to be 制作'ed. I haven't found any examples at http://www.chinese-tools.com/ or http://www.mandarintools.com/cgi-bin/wordlook.pl or in my dictionary.

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我制作了新的词卡 is OK. 制作 doesn't specially mean "large-scale manufacture" in Chinese. But, 制造 does. –  Stan Jul 2 '13 at 9:15
    
Anything that involves labor, requires a series of steps or procedures and an attention to details. Example, a movie, a cake, a greeting card, toys. –  Question Overflow Jul 3 '13 at 3:16
    
The object of 制作 is not necessarily large-scale thing. "制作了一张单词卡" is perfectly OK. –  YM Jiang Jul 3 '13 at 5:40
    
@QuestionOverflow: "requires ... an attention to details" is really important. For example, some large-scale thing cannot be 制作-ed, it will sound very weird -- native speakers don't say 制作轮船/客机/楼房. –  Stan Jul 3 '13 at 6:33
    
@Stan, yes, I know that. Have added an answer below :) –  Question Overflow Jul 4 '13 at 4:00
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

After going through a few online examples, I think this is what 制作 actually means:

To make something physically that requires a level of skill or artistry, such as, a movie, a cake, a greeting card or a toy. Example:

韩国制作巨型巧克力高跟鞋迎接情人节 (South Korea has made a gigantic pair of chocolate stilettos to welcome Valentine's Day)

Since 制造 is also mentioned, to provide disambiguation, 制造 means to manufacture or mass-produce something (both physical and non-physical). Example:

这AK-47是前苏联制造的 (This AK-47 was made in the former USSR)
制造垃圾 (churning out rubbish)
制造欢乐气氛 (creating a joyous atmosphere)

To build or construct something, usually big, we can use the word 建造. For example:

建造楼房 (construct a building)
建造卫星导航系统 (build a satellite navigation system)

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Thanks for expanding upon the other answer. The additional commentary on similar words has helpfully widened my vocabulary! –  Daniel King Jul 4 '13 at 9:00
    
You are welcome, glad to know that :) –  Question Overflow Jul 5 '13 at 2:30
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Look here for a very full list of examples: http://www.nciku.com/search/zh/detail/%E5%88%B6%E4%BD%9C/1319727

制作 is comparable to the English word to make, as you can 制作 anything from cake to advertisements.

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This sentence on that webpage fails in dividing phrases: 内阁 制作 为一种政治体制,有它一定的合理性。 内阁制(度) should be one phrase, "cabinet system". –  Stan Jul 2 '13 at 15:35
    
Since the website just searches through all the example sentences for any matches to the given characters, this can happen a lot, but with so many examples, it's still useful. –  Question Marks Jul 2 '13 at 15:57
    
That's right :) I just put a warning for the possible misleading. It's still a wonderful site. –  Stan Jul 2 '13 at 16:46
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