Talking About Work


Work is a common word, especially in design and construction.  However, common words we already know are often used in different ways.  These combinations can often mean different things.

Work is both a noun and a verb.  This lesson talks about using work as a verb.  Be sure to visit the other lesson that talks about work as a noun.

When used as a verb, work is commonly used with a preposition.  WORK AS, for example.

When used with a preposition, it is usually followed by a NOUN or NOUN PHRASE.  This use is transitive, which means the verb carries an object.  Example: Work on a project  (Verb + Preposition + Object)

Here's a list of the verb phrases in this lesson.  Which ones do you know and which ones do you want to learn more about?













When describing how people or organizations work, here are some useful expressions.


People WORK FOR organizations, clients, or employers.

He works for a client or company


People can WORK AS something.  This usually describes the role or job title.

We work as a team.

She works as project manager.


People WORK ON tasks, projects, assignments, etc.

The engineer works on the project.

The architect works on the plans.


People WORK WITH a group or person.

Superintendents work with subcontractors


People WORK WITH a material, system or thing. This describes what they are using to complete their work.

Formwork installers work with site cast concrete.

Engineers work with BIM to avoid conflicts.


People WORK FROM something.  This describes a source of information or something they need to refer to.

Contractors must work from the same information.

Framers work from a floor plan to lay out the walls.


People WORK THROUGH a situation or problem.  It describes a process.

During the meeting, the team worked through coordination issues.

The design team and contractor worked through their misunderstanding and agreed.


People WORK TOWARD a goal or milestone.

The owner works toward an agreement with the contractor.

The design team is working toward a Friday deadline.


People can WORK (something) INTO a schedule, budget, or other measurable things.

The metal subcontractor worked the changes into their estimate.

The owner worked the appointment into their busy schedule.  The keyword here is ‘busy’. 


People WORK AT doing something. This is used when somebody is making great efforts to achieve something or do something well. This is almost always used with the GERUND form of the verb.  (V+ing)

Let’s work at improving project communication.

The glass supplier is working at reducing the cost.

The project manager must work at gaining the trust of his team.


People WORK UNDER other people in an organization.  This is used to describe one’s role in an organization.

The engineers work under the supervision of the superintendent.

The subcontractors work under the general contractor.


People WORK UNDER difficult conditions or situations.  This emphasizes hardship or challenging work conditions.

The project manager was working under extreme pressure from the owner.

The excavation crew worked under difficult weather conditions.


Some expressions describe the properties or performance of something; or whether something is appropriate for use in a specific situation.


Something can WORK OUT. 

Something can NOT WORK OUT. 

This means the same as 'resolve.'  Its meaning is a little different, however.  We usually say something works out when the end result was not expected, or the process is not 100% easy, smooth or perfect.  Note:  This is different from the other phrasal verb 'work out', meaning exercise.

settle, sort out, solve, find a solution to, find an answer to, fix, straighten out, deal with, put right, set right, put to rights, rectify, iron out, reconcile

The decision to change the schedule worked out in the end, but it was very challenging for the team.

The new roofing subcontractor was 2 weeks behind schedule. They did not work out, so the general contractor fired them.

The owner and contractor are working out their problems in the meeting right now.


Something can WORK FOR something. 

This means 'suitable' or 'compatible' or 'appropriate for'

Rammed earth doesn’t work for commercial buildings.

Stainless steel works perfectly for kitchen projects.


Something can WORK ON something. 

This means the same as 'work for', except it's more commonly used for objects or things.

Wood windows don’t work on high-rise buildings.

PVC roofing works well on flat roofs.


Something can WORK WITH something.

This means 'suitable' or 'compatible with' or 'appropriate for'

Aluminum bolts don’t work with structural steel.

Asphalt shingles work with pitched roofs.


Other expressions describe a material’s or system’s function or role.

Something can WORK AS something. 

This means 'the same as 'function as'

Columns work as a structural support.

EPDM works as a water barrier.

Brick veneer works as a rain screen.


Take a look at work in the dictionary and study some other uses for the word.  Dictionaries work great for learning new word combinations while you're working towards becoming a better English speaker.  Working with dictionaries is very helpful if you can work it into your schedule.

Here's a link to the word 'work' as a verb in the Oxford learner's dictionary.

In another lesson, we explore using the word work as a noun.

Until then, I'm going back to work.  I have lots to work on...  🙂

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