When do we say “Work” or “Works” in English?
Posted on July 11, 2018
By Emily Stallard, Owner at Orchid English
So firstly we can work as a verb. We work, she works. OK. The verb form is easy and regular.
The confusion for many of our students comes with nouns. Is the noun “work” countable or uncountable? It’s not quite that simple, and we hear this mistake regularly. Let’s look at when it’s “work” or “works” in English grammar.
General Business: Work as an uncountable noun
In an office, work is usually uncountable. We can have a lot of work or not much work. If you want to count one task, you could say “a piece of work”.
She finished all her work
There is so much work to do before the conference
You will see below why we can’t say in a general business sense:
She finished all the works There are so many works to do before the conference
Construction: Work or works as a noun
In construction, we can use the word “work” as a uncountable or a plural. Both of these sentences are fine:
We are carrying out some building works on the main road
We are carrying out some building work on the main road
Art: Work or works as a noun
Similarly to construction, we can talk about art work or art works. You could say:
I really love the work of Picasso and
I really love the works of Picasso
These sentences are almost identical but work implies all of it, and works implies that you have some particular pieces in mind.
To return to our previous example sentences:
“She finished all the works” is OK only if she is a construction worker or artist
“There are so many works to do before the conference” is OK only if there are so many works of art to do, or so many construction works to complete before the conference.
Now we know when it’s “work” or “works” in English grammar, you can get back to work! Review countable and uncountable nouns with a good quiz here.