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Mission vs. Assignment

Mission vs. Assignment
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Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we will answer a question from Aiping about the difference between mission and assignment in one of our stories.


Dear teacher,

I read an article by VOA Learning English titled "After Helping Fight COVID-19 US military plans for Next Pandemic.” There are two words: “mission “and “assignment.” Can you tell me the difference between these two words?




Dear Aiping,

Thank you for your question! Let us look at these two words within the story. We will start with the word “mission” and then move onto “assignment.”


Firstly, we have the word “mission.” Let us look at how the word “mission” is used in the story:

“The United States military deployed about 24,000 troops to help state and local governments across the country fight COVID-19. That mission has ended, at least for now.”

“And, officials are seeking to learn from the experiences of service members who took part in the COVID-19 mission.”

"(The patient) is going to get the treatment he needs. That was the mission.”

The word mission in these three sentences from the story refers to the US military’s deployment of troops to help local governments fight COVID-19. In this way, we can think of “mission” as an important operation, effort, or task.

The US military defines “mission” as “a task together with a purpose.” This may be an overall mission or larger goal, like to defend the United States, or it might be a specific task, like helping local governments to fight COVID-19.

So we can think of “mission” as a larger goal or objective. Many organizations and even individual people use the word “mission.”

For example,

The charity’s mission is to provide shelter and food to young people without homes.

My mission for the summer is to take an hour-long walk every day.


Next, we have the word “assignment.” Let us look at how we use it in the story:

“The last military medical team deployed for the pandemic finished its assignment last week at the University of Utah hospital.”

In this sentence, “assignment” refers to a specific place where the task or mission is carried out, like the University of Utah hospital.

Military units and other employees might have different assignments or jobs in different places. This is how we can think of the word “assignment,” like a specific job in a specific place.

To summarize, we use the word “mission” to talk about the overall goal or purpose for an organization or an individual. We use the word assignment when talking about individual jobs in a specific place.

The two words can overlap when a person’s assignment (individual job) is helping carry out the mission or larger, overall goal.

Please let us know if these explanations and examples have helped you, Aiping!

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at

And that’s Ask a teacher.

I’m Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.

Do you have a question for the teacher? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.


Words in This Story

mission n. an operation or effort of great value

charity n. an official organization that gives money, food or other assistance to people in need