Confusing words: job, work

Job and work are used in different ways. Here are the important differences that English learners need to know:

Work and job as nouns and verbs

Work is both a verb and a noun (uncountable); job is mostly used as a noun (countable):

  • I’m busy – I have a lot of work. (uncountable noun)
  • I have a lot of works.
  • I have two jobs – I’m a taxi driver, but I also work as a part-time fireman. (countable noun)
  • I’m a teacher at a nursery. It’s a great job – I love it. (countable noun)

We say go to work, start work, finish work:

  • I start work at 8 o’clock every morning.
  • I start my job at 8 o’clock every morning.
  • I go to work by bus.
  • I travel to my job by bus.

To describe what you do to earn money

Job is much more specific than work: your job is the name of the work that you do to earn money. It refers to your particular employment position, such as a teacher, accountant, builder, manager, etc.:

  • I like my job; I’m a teacher.
  • My job is a teacher.
  • My brother has found a good job as a sales manager at Vodafone.
  • I’m looking for a new job. = I’m looking for a new position.
  • I’m looking for new work.
  • What’s your job, Peter? = What do you do for a living?

We use work to say talk about the location or who our employer is, NOT to give a specific description or title:

  • John works for Microsoft.
  • Elizabeth works for a law firm.
  • My job is for a law firm.
  • Tony works in London.
  • My job is in London.

In these last examples, we do NOT know what the people’s responsibilities are; we only know where they work or who they work for. We DON’T know exactly what John’s job is, we DON’T know exactly what Elizabeth’s job is. And we only know that Tony works in London – we don’t know what he does there: we would have to ask him what his job is.

Other meanings

As a verb, work can have other meanings, e.g. how a machine works, meaning how it functions or if it is functioning properly:

  • The photocopier isn’t working-  it’s broken.
  • Do you understand how a car works?

As a noun, a job can also mean a task, such as repairing something at home:

  • I have a few jobs to do this weekend – I have to paint the fence and fix the garage door.

work job difference speakspeak.com vocabulary

OK, now it’s your turn to work – try the exercise below. Fill each gap with the correct form of either work or job (use one word per gap):





questions go herescore goes here






If you found this article helpful, please share it with friends and click the ‘Like’ and ‘G+’ buttons below. Feel free to ask a question or leave a comment. Thanks.

Profile photo of Stuart Cook
Stuart is an English teacher and runs the Speakspeak website. He currently lives in Prague and has been teaching for over 20 years.

16 Comments

  1. sam - August 2, 2012, 3:42 pm Reply

    hello again stuart
    actually I don,t have very problem with these 2
    just I usually had a problem with using them as task like what u said in article
    but not anymore
    I usually didn,t know use either work or job when i wanted to say I have a lot of work, and i have some jobs in my house
    now I think I can use them in appropriate place

    • Profile photo of Stuart Cook

      Stuart Cook - August 2, 2012, 4:12 pm Reply

      Glad it helped, Sam.
      It’s very common for people to say ‘jobs around the house’ or ‘a few odd jobs’, meaning ‘a few small and varying tasks’.

  2. Mhmd alhasn boshra - August 25, 2012, 1:56 pm Reply

    Im not much confused but your exc gave me more confidence. Thanks alot

  3. Mhmd alhasn boshra - August 25, 2012, 2:04 pm Reply

    Again I send my gratitudes. I look forward for more exercises. English is the language of life.

  4. Benildo Agostinho - January 6, 2013, 8:58 am Reply

    I just find here the following: we would have to ask him what his job is. In other case it is normal to say: we would ”LIKE” to ask him what his job is to say the same mean?

    • Profile photo of Stuart Cook

      Stuart Cook - January 6, 2013, 7:22 pm Reply

      Hi, Benildo.

      In reply to your question, ‘we would HAVE TO ask him what his job is’ is not the same as ‘we would LIKE TO ask him what his job is':

      ‘have to’ expresses obligation (meaning we have no other choice) and ‘would like to ask’ means that we want to ask.

  5. nandie powell - June 27, 2013, 1:56 pm Reply

    This was extremely helpful.

  6. kelly p - June 27, 2013, 1:58 pm Reply

    How can i get info otherwise? I think im now struggling with English in terms of subject verb agreement. Tense etc

  7. shahla - November 27, 2013, 10:42 am Reply

    tnx
    it was complete,helful.especially exercise

  8. mehroo - January 7, 2014, 8:42 pm Reply

    it was excellent. . . . . . .
    thanks.

  9. annrie - March 11, 2014, 3:42 am Reply

    many thanks…it helps me a lot! excellent!

  10. júlia - April 16, 2014, 8:59 pm Reply

    Hey!
    Thanks so much for this post! Very useful.

    Júlia

  11. kenny - April 30, 2014, 1:18 am Reply

    Thanks . It is an Excellent Information.now I get it.

  12. Wojtek - July 9, 2014, 7:53 am Reply

    Thanks to you we can improve speaking English
    Thank you again

  13. Stephen khamis victor - December 4, 2014, 2:01 pm Reply

    thank very much for leting me knowns something very new in english by this i will improve myself in speaking english

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