When do we use “Work” or “Works” in English?

Posted on October 14, 2021

Let’s have a look at a common mistake: the difference between work and works in English. The good news is that it will be quite easy for you to fix. Read on!

Verbs

So firstly we can work as a verb. We work, she works. OK. The verb form is easy and regular. If you can read this blog post you know this already.

Nouns

The confusion for many of our students comes later, when we use nouns.  Is the noun “work” countable or uncountable? Well, it can be either countable or uncountable in different situations, and we hear this mistake regularly. Let’s look at when it’s “work” or “works” in English grammar.

Job: 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

What we can’t say in general business

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

Job: 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

Job: 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.

Comparing “work” and “works” for types of job

To return to our previous example sentences in the general business section:

“She finished all the works” is OK only if she is a construction worker or artist

Likewise,

“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.

Conclusion

Now we know when it’s “work” or “works” in English grammar, so you can get back to work! Review countable and uncountable nouns with a great quiz here.

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