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work - definition and synonyms

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verb     work pronunciation in British English
Word Forms
present tense
present participleworking
past tenseworked
past participleworked
  1. 1
    [intransitive] to spend time trying to achieve something, especially when this involves using a lot of effort

    I’ve been working in the garden all day.

    work on:

    Our thanks go to everybody who has worked on this project.

    work to do something:

    He worked tirelessly to improve safety conditions in the mines.

    1. a.
      [transitive] to make someone work

      She always works us too hard.

    2. b.
      [intransitive] to produce a picture or create an object using a particular type of substance
      work in/with:

      He works in oils and acrylics, painting mostly landscapes.

  2. 2
    [intransitive] to have a job, usually one that you are paid to do

    Dominic works part-time.

    work in:

    I hope to work in marketing when I’m older.

    work as:

    She worked as a journalist.

    work with:

    All our nursery nurses are qualified to work with children.

    work for:

    She works for a big law firm in the city.

    1. a.
      [transitive] if you work a particular area or type of place, you go to that area or to those places as part of your job, for example to try and sell things or to perform there

      He worked the clubs long before TV made him famous.

  3. 3
    [intransitive] to operate in a satisfactory way

    The new telephone system seems to be working perfectly.

    This pen doesn’t work.

    My brain’s not working very well today.

    1. a.
      [transitive] to operate something such as a machine or piece of equipment

      I don’t know how to work this thing.

  4. 4
    [intransitive] to succeed

    If this plan doesn’t work, we’ll think of something else.

    The strategy seems to be working.

    1. a.
      to have a particular effect or result

      The drug works by blocking the spread of the virus.

      Her dazzling performance worked its magic on the audience (=had a good effect on them).

      work for/against someone (=have a good/bad result):

      Criticizing your former employer works against you in an interview.

      work in someone’s favour/work to someone’s advantage (=be an advantage to someone):

      The exchange rate is currently working in the company’s favour.

  5. 5
    [intransitive/transitive] to move gradually from one position to another

    The strap of one of her sandals had worked itself loose.

    1. a.
      [transitive] to put something into a different position or state

      She managed to work one hand free.

      work yourself into something:

      He was slowly working himself into a panic.

  6. 6
    [transitive] to shape a substance such as metal in a particular way, especially using tools
  7. 7
    [transitive] if someone works a mine or a quarry, they dig substances such as gold or stone out of it
  8. 8
    [transitive] to prepare land and grow crops on it
  9. 9
    [transitive] maths American to solve a problem in mathematics by doing a calculation
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