How to use ‘work’ and ‘job’ correctly

Men at Work (photo permission from flickr via codey's453) For educational purposes only.

Men at Work
(photo permission from flickr via codey’s453)
For educational purposes only.

What is the difference between work and job?

The biggest difference is that work is both a verb and a noun, but job is only a noun. But let’s look at both words to see other differences.

Work

When you work, you use effort or energy, usually to achieve a goal, finish a task, or make money.  In one way, it is the opposite of play because work is not usually a lot of fun. However, work and play both require energy. Work is really the opposite of rest because work uses your energy while rest does not. Here are some examples of how we use work as a verb:

  • Lisa works for Wake Tech Community College.
  • Jamal works in a café.
  • Kyle worked in his yard all weekend.
  • Right now, Andrea is working on her university degree. She will graduate next year.

office

By Phil Whitehouse (Flickr: New office) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In these examples, we do not know exactly what the person’s duties, activities, or responsibilities are. Jamal works in a café, but we do not know if he cleans the tables or cooks the food. Lisa works for the community college, but we don’t know if she is a teacher or a secretary or the president. Kyle worked in his yard, but we don’t know if he was mowing the grass or building a dog house. And we can guess that Andrea goes to classes, studies, and does homework, but we cannot be sure.

You can also see in these examples that we use work to talk about things you do to earn money AND things you do when you aren’t paid. If you are using energy, you can probably say that you are working.

People don’t do all the work in the world. I don’t want to use my energy to wash my clothes, so I put them into my washing machine. When we talk about machines, we use work as a verb to mean “function.” If my washing machine is broken, I say, “My washing machine doesn’t work.” If I have a new DVD player, I read the instructions to learn how it works.

Work is also used as a noun in two ways:

Van Gogh's Starry Night

Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

1. to talk about the things that you do or make. If you look at a painting, you are seeing the artist’s work (a finished product). If your boss tells you that your work is good, he/she means that you are doing well. When we talk about a finished art product (painting, symphony, sculpture, etc.), we often call it a “work” of art. When we use this meaning of “work,” it is a countable noun. For example:

  • His favorite works include Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet.
  • None of Van Gogh’s works were famous when he was alive.

2. to talk about your place of employment or the activities you do there. For example, we say, “I go to work every morning.” That means you go to the place where you are an employee. If someone asks you, “What do you do for work?” they want to know what you do as an employee.

Job

Job is similar to this last meaning of “work.” It usually means the name for the work that you do to earn money. For example:

  • Jamal has a new job. He is a handyman in a small restaurant.
  • My job is to teach adult students how to speak, read, write, and understand English.
  • Katherine has two jobs. She is trying to earn more money so she can buy a computer for her son.

We can also use “job” to talk about a task. Sometimes, I will say to my husband, “I have a job for you.” I am not going to pay him, but I have a task that I hope he will do.

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