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How to talk about work

Ironically enough, May 1st, or International Worker's Day, was on a Sunday this year, so no holiday for us workers, at least not here in Italy. Anyways, work hard, play hard, right? Or just work hard? The average American will spend over 90,000 hours of their life working! The funny thing is, even when we aren't "working", many of us are thinking about work, talking about work, or "just checking our mails" AKA working. So, since work makes up such a huge part of our lives, we had best know how to talk about it properly in English, right? This post will help you avoid some common mistakes that many English learners make, plus a few tips for talking about your job.


Job vs. work

Thanks English, you've done it again. You've gone and used two words for two very similar things when the rest of the world's languages use only one. Congratulations. Lucky for you there are teachers like me to explain it to the poor souls who want to learn to speak you.

The word job is a countable noun (can be used with the articles a/an)

The word work is an uncountable noun (can be used only with the article - the)

  • a paid position of regular employment A: what's your job? B: I'm a doctor

  • an activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.

She was exhausted after work so she went home and collapsed on the sofa.

  • As a synonym of the word, task

I've got a job for you, could you please call all of Macy's clients and let them know she won't be in today?

  • a thing or things done or made; the result of an action

The work she's done for her clients is outstanding.

The word work is also a verb, here are a few examples of how to use it:

  • She works from Monday to Friday.

  • I've been working on the weekends lately to tie up loose ends.

  • My friend used to work in an office, but now she's a freelancer.

  • What's better, working or studying?


Good so now that that's out of the way, here are a few useful expressions you can use when the question, "what do you do?" arises.

A: So what do you do?

B: I'm the country manager for a large multinational.

A: That's cool. What exactly does that entail?

B: Well, I'm in charge of a team and I deal with both local and international clients. And you?

A: Oh, I work in HR. I oversee all hiring and firing, sort out contracts, and manage the payroll.

B: Uff, sounds like a lot of responsibility! Do you work long hours?

A: Usually just 40 per week, but sometimes I have to do some overtime. What about you?

B: Hah, overtime doesn't exist in my position. I'm always connected for calls or even just to answer mails. I've been burning the candle at both ends lately, December is always crunch time you know.

A: That must be tough.

B: Oh you know, it's just the nature of the job!


Good job, you made it through yet another post. I'll let you get back to your work, but not before giving you a bit of mid-week motivation!

"The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today". - Elbert Hubbard


  • AKA: also known as

  • ASAP: as soon as possible

  • to tie up loose ends: to finish the parts of something that hasn't been finished

  • what do you do?: what's your occupation (do you work or do you study?)

  • now that that's out of the way: common expression to say that something is finished and that something else can begin

  • entail: synonym for involve

  • to be in charge of: to be responsible for

  • deal with: to manage

  • work in [department]: to be a part of [department]

  • oversee: to be responsible for, to supervise

  • sort out: solve a problem

  • payroll: a list of a company's employees and the amount of money they are to be paid

  • overtime: extra work after hours

  • burning the candle at both ends: expression for working very/too hard

  • crunch time: a difficult period [usually for work], full of deadlines

  • the nature of the job: an expression to say that a job involves certain characteristics

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