Word Combinations With Word WorkJul 14, 2021
This blog article is all about different word combinations we can use with the word ‘work’.
This is a big part of building solid foundations in business English because ‘work’ really is the center of everything we do.
Not only that, but it’s a word that often confuses non-native English speakers and business English learners, which is why I have dedicated a section of today’s blog article on these common errors and mistakes.
Pronunciation of The Word Work
‘Work’ has one syllable, as does the past tense verb ‘worked’. Most English learners will mispronounce the -ed of past tense verb though. Because of the -ed, they think that the word has two syllables when in fact it still only has one.
The -ed at the end of ‘worked’ actually makes a /t/ sound rather than an /ed/ sound. Practice isolating the sound /kt/ if you have difficulties in pronouncing the word as a whole. Watch the video above this blog article if you want more help with the pronunciation of the past tense ‘worked’.
How to Remember New Words
The number #1 reason why students find it hard to remember new vocabulary is simply because they have no real system in place. The best way to remember new words is to categorize them into groups of the same or similar words.
Another way to remember new words is to have a place where you can store them and practice using them on a daily basis. For this, I recommend using some kind of spreadsheet or Google Doc.
In our exclusive free seminar, I actually share a system with you that will teach you how to learn and remember new business words quicker and easier, and I give you my unique system that has already helped thousands of business English learners expand their vocabulary range. You can join our seminar here.
What We’re Going to Look at Today
Today I’m going to help you learn more about the different types of words we can use with the word ‘work’ in English.
We’re going to look at some phrasal verbs and idioms with the word ‘work’, and I’m going to be sharing with you some of the most common mistakes I see business English learners make when using the word ‘work’ in English.
Get yourself a pen and paper and let’s get started!
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Phrasal Verbs With Work
Oxford dictionary defines a phrasal verb as an idiomatic phrase consisting of a verb and another element, typically either an adverb, as in break down, or a preposition, for example, see to, or a combination of both, such as look down on.
Let’s go through a few together.
To work out, or to work something out actually have two different meanings. To work out can mean to go to the gym and lift weights.
“I usually work out after work at around 7 PM.”
But to work something out means to plan something in detail or/and to solve a problem or issue. You’ll hear this phrasal verb used a lot in all kinds of business settings.
“We need to work out a seating plan for the presentation next week.”
To work up to something also has two different meanings. The first meaning is to develop or produce something by activity or effort.
“I eventually worked up the courage to ask for a promotion.”
However, it can also be used to describe our feelings and emotions when we bring someone (or ourselves) to an intense state of excitement, anger, or anxiety.
“He got all worked up about the feedback his boss gave him yesterday.”
To work on something means to concentrate or simply do a task, activity or project.
“Next week we’ll be working on the new sales strategy for Q4.”
This phrasal verb is particularly useful when in an English-speaking job interview to highlight your past work experience.
“I worked on a lot of different projects at ABC such as developing the new marketing strategy which brought a 20% increase in sales.”
To work around something means to find a way to overcome or avoid difficulty or problem. This phrasal verb is especially helpful when we are discussing solutions to problems.
“Once we know and understand the issue with our report system, we can find a way to work around it.”
When we dedicate ourselves to a task or activity or make an effort to do something better than before, we can use the phrasal verb “work at”. It simply means to try hard to develop or improve something.
“If Jenny works at improving her sales skills, she could be made manager by the end of the year.”
To work towards something means to make progress towards a specific goal or outcome. We’ll often use this phrasal verb when talking about deadlines or results.
“Both countries are working towards peace in the region.”
Idioms About Work
English uses a lot of work-related idioms too. In this next section we’re going to look at a few common expressions native English speakers will often use both in and out of work. Remember that idioms should be used in moderation (they shouldn’t be used all the time with everyone).
Idioms are best used when you know the recipient will understand the expression, and when the setting is more informal.
Let’s look at our first idiom about ‘work’.
To Work All the hours that God sends
Possibly one of the most common idioms with ‘work’. If we or someone else works all the hours that God sends, it means that we work all day, every day. Usually, when we use this expression it means that someone works an excessive amount.
“Before the deadline, he worked all the hours that God sent. He didn’t leave the office until 8 PM most nights.”
English uses many different words and phrases to express overworking, as you’ll see in our next example.
To Work Your Fingers to The Bone
To work your fingers to the bone can also mean to work excessively or too much. This idiom however means that the subject has worked so hard that they’ve physically and mentally exhausted themselves.
“Frida worked her fingers to the bone to get that report finished on time. You should thank her.”
A Work of Art
A work of art is a piece of writing, music or art that is considered a masterpiece. When we think of great musicians and artists, we will often refer to their work as “a work of art”.
We can also use this idiom however in business. For example, if someone has created or invented something that is truly magnificent then we might say it is a “work of art”.
“That new algorithm Gary wrote was a work of art. It must have taken him ages!”
A Backlog of Work
Ever had a mountain of work that just keeps piling up? A backlog of work basically means work that needs to be finished or completed. We can also say a backlog of emails or a backlog of reports if we want to be more specific about the type of work.
“I have this long backlog of work to do all day after my holiday last week.”
Work for Peanuts
The idiom to work for peanuts means to work for very little money. Peanuts represent the small amount of income you receive from doing a particular job or task.
“I heard the employees over at XYB work for peanuts. They should start a union.”
We can also use this expression with the verb “paid” - to “pay some peanuts” means to pay a very low wage or salary for a job.
“I would have taken that job if it didn’t pay peanuts.”
Common Mistakes With The Word Work
The final thing we’re going to look at today is some of the most common mistakes business English learners make when using the word ‘work’, and the use of articles is one of the biggest errors.
Articles ‘a’ and ‘the’ With The Word ‘work’
If you work or have work, then you have a job. But we never say we have ‘a’ work. The word ‘work’ is an uncountable noun, therefore it isn’t necessary to use the article ‘a’.
We also shouldn’t use the article ‘the’ with the word either. For example, we don’t say:
“I’m at the work right now, can you call back later?”
“I’m going to the work right now, can you call back later?”
We should say:
“I’m at work right now, can you call back later?”
“I’m going to work right now, can you call back later?”
Work Instead of Company
‘Work’ (noun) is also the place where you go to work (verb). A lot of people will use the word ‘company’. For example:
“I will go to the company tomorrow to do some overtime.”
This is wrong. Instead, we should say:
“I will go to work tomorrow to do some overtime.”
I hope you found the information and words from today’s blog article useful, and I hope it puts you on the right path to speaking better business English!
With these new words, phrasal verbs, idioms, and common errors, you should now be able to express yourself using the word ‘work’ more clearly, confidently, and effectively.
Your next task is to write in the comments section some example sentences of your own using the words and expressions we’ve looked at today, or write some of your own problems or questions you have about using English in the workplace and I will help you out.
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