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The Different Ways to Use the Word ‘Work’

This week, we talk about the different ways to use the word ‘Work’

The Different Ways to Use the Word ‘Work’
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This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from Tien, who is from Hanoi, Vietnam.


Dear VOA,

I'm Tien. Nice to meet you.

I read many ways to use verb "work." For example: work at, work in, work for, work with,...etc. Please explain clearly for each situation.

Thanks a lot!

Tien, Vietnam


Dear Tien,

Thank you for your email.

“Work” has several usages. It can be a verb, noun or adjective.

The examples you asked about used “work” as a verb. The structure is verb + preposition + noun. Here is a simple example sentence:

Fred works at a restaurant.

This means Fred has a job at a restaurant. He is a restaurant employee.

We often use the “work at” combination when someone asks us the question “What do you do?” But we also might use “work + in,” like in this example:

I​ work in the telecommunications industry.

Let’s continue with that imaginary discussion.

Me too! I work for Verizon.

Oh! You work with our main competitor!

There are lots of prepositions that “work” with the verb work. For example, did you know a person can “work under” someone? Listen again to our telecommunication workers:

Do you know Pamela Jackson at Verizon?

She is my supervisor! I work under her at the New York headquarters!

Really? We worked on a project together years ago. But we worked out of Dallas, Texas.

“Work” also combines with other words to create phrasal verbs. A phrasal verb combines a verb and another word to create a meaning different from what each individual word suggests.

We have used a few phrasal verbs in this report. Can you find them? Maybe you can even work out their meaning.

Thank you again for the question, Tien. We always want to work toward a better understanding of American English!

And to our listeners everywhere, what question do you have about American English? Send us an email at

And that’s Ask a Teacher!

I’m Armen Kassabian.

Caty Weaver wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor. Practice using the words ‘work’ in different ways in the comments below.