The word ‘work’ can mean many different things. As a verb, the meaning is to perform tasks (often for money) or to function.

For example:

  • I’m working on my essay today. (perform tasks)
  • My phone has stopped working. (function)


Work is a regular verb. The past tense and past participle is worked.

idiomatic phrasal verbs

Did you know phrasal verbs are sometimes used in idioms? See if you can spot any. If you don’t know any phrasal verbs with ‘work’, click here to learn them.

idioms list with ‘work’

  • donkey work – the hard/boring work
    e.g. Once all the donkey work is out of the way, we can relax a bit.
  • have one’s work cut out – a hard/difficult job/task
    e.g. Our colleague is on holiday, so we have our work cut out this week.
  • line of work – the type of work a person does to earn money
    e.g. My line of work is very dangerous, but the pay is great.
  • work one’s fingers to the bone – work very hard
    e.g. My dad worked his fingers to the bone then died a week after he retired.
  • work one’s socks off – work very hard
    e.g. Harley worked his socks off and bought his dream car.

Let’s see these idioms with pictures and meaning using real-life scenarios.

verb phrases - work
Idioms with verbs - WORK - donkey work
work idioms - line of work
Idioms with verbs - WORK - work one’s fingers to the bone
verb phrase - work one’s socks off


Hey, did you know the verb ‘work’ has many phrasal verbs. Since you like idioms and phrases, you obviously want to improve your fluency and speak like a native.

Am I right?


I thought you might like to learn the phrasal verbs with ‘work’ too. They are very common in informal English and great to know/be able to understand if you happen to be speaking to a native. We use them all the time, like literally ALL the time.