12 work idioms and expressions ›› 27 work collocations ›› 8 work phrasal verbs



Work idioms and expressions:

1. a good day’s work

  • They finished painting the wall. It was a good day’s work.

2. keep up the good work

  • The company boss was pleased with her staff and told them to keep up the good work.

3. a work of art

  • The Mona Lisa is a work of art!

4. a work of fiction

  • She told many lies. Her story was a work of fiction.

5. a life’s work

  • Helping homeless people became his life’s work.

6. make light / short work of something

Something easily done

  • I can’t believe you have finished that huge meal...you made light work of it! 

7. a backlog of work

work that still needs to be done

  • After my two week holiday I returned to a backlog of work! 

8. work in progress

the work continues

  • The road is closed for repair. The work is in progress. 

9. work your fingers to the bone

work very hard

  • I worked my fingers to the bone to give my children a good life.

10. work like a dog

work very hard

  • My brother worked like a dog to become successful. 

11. work for peanuts

work for very little money

  • I am sick of working for peanuts! 

12. work something out

find a solution to a problem

  • Don’t worry, it will all work out

Idioms for working hard

idioms for hard work

Work (noun) meaning:
Effort, a product of effort, a task, a job we do

  • Learning English can be hard work!

Work collocations:

Here we are going to look at the different collocations of the word work.

So, without further ado (meaning without waiting any longer).

‘Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work we go!’  There are different patterns of collocations:

Adjective + Work  

1. back-breaking work

very hard, physical work

  • Digging the hole was back-breaking work. 

2. labour-intensive work

work that is usually done by hands, not by machine

  • Making clothes by hand is labour-intensive work. 

3. rewarding and challenging work

  • Teaching children can be both rewarding and challenging work sometimes.

4. donkey work

hard work requiring no skill

  • He told me to move all these bricks. I always get the donkey work! 

5. dirty work

  • Working in a coal mine is dirty work! (Literal meaning)
  • Criminal gangs often get children to do their dirty work like carrying drugs for them (figurative meaning)

6. humdrum

boring, repetitive work

  • Shop work can be humdrum sometimes. 

7. humanitarian work

work helping people affected by war or famine

  • The charity does important humanitarian work with refugees. 

Work relating to jobs and study

8. women’s work

  • Cooking is not just women’s work!

9. seasonal work

work in busy times of the year

  • You can usually find seasonal work in the summer in beach resorts.

10. shift work

work at different times in the day

  • Chefs often have to do shift work, cooking lunch and dinners.

11. freelance work

work for yourself selling your expertise to others

  • Do you work full-time? No, I do freelance work, so I can work when I want.

12. fieldwork

practical work, often for academic purposes

  • For our geography course we went to Iceland to do fieldwork.

13. undercover work

secret work where it is necessary to hide your identity

  • The police were not in uniform while doing undercover work.

14. collaborative work

  • University departments often do collaborative work to improve scientific research.

Work + noun

15. work ethic

  • She has a really good work ethic. She arrives on time and doesn’t stop working all day.

16. work surface

  • Put the shopping on the work surface and I’ll put it all away after I’ve had a cup of tea!

17. work schedule

  • I’ve printed out the work schedules so that we all know what we have to do.

18. work experience

  • It’s good for young people to do a  voluntary job to get some work experience.

Work and verb

19. work + go

  • The work is going well. I’ve nearly finished.

20. work + start

  • What time does work start in the morning?

21. work + finish

  • Work finishes around 6 pm.

22. work + involve

  • What does office work involve? Lots of paperwork!

23. work + cost  

  • How much will the work cost on my car?

Verb and work

There are many verbs which collocate with work when we put the verb first.

24. do + work  

  • I have to do lots of work tonight or my teacher will kill me!

25. have + work  

  • She has got so much work on at the moment, we never see her!

26. find + work  

  • I’ve been trying to find work nearer to home so I don’t have to drive too far.

27. get done / have done + work   

  • We’re going to get work done on the garden this Spring.

Phrasal verbs with work

1. look for + work

  • He spent years looking for the right kind of work

2. carry out + work

work was started and completed

  • The building work was carried out in the last 100 years. 

3. get down to + work

start work

  • Please get down to work or you’ll never finish on time. 

4. get on with + work

continue working

  • The teacher told the students to get on with their work or they would be in trouble! 

5. hand in + work

  • I didn’t hand in my work on time so the teacher gave me a C instead of a B!

6. take on + work

accept work

  • My father was a workaholic- he always took on too much work.

7. go about + work

  • The nurses in the hospital always go about their work with smiling faces!

8. set someone to + work

  • When Bob said he was bored, his mother set him to work in the garden!

Prepositions before and after work

1. at + work

in the work place

  • It is forbidden to smoke at work.

2. in + work

have a job

  • In these hard times I am lucky to be in work.

3. off + work

not at work

  • After the accident, she was off work for weeks.

4. work + with

  • Working with teenagers can be a challenge!

5. work + on

writing a book

  • I’m working on a new novel at the moment.

6. work + In

my job is selling things

  • ‘What do you do?’ ‘I work in sales’.

Finally….all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! (if you only work and don’t have a balanced life, you will be very boring). So, it’s time for me to stop work and go and play!

25 Ways to Say “Keep Up The Good Work” 💪 & Meaning 🤓

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