English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Is the usage of "a work" correct here? My supervisor, who is not an English teacher, advised me to use "a task" instead.

Usually, though, I would not mind either way. Does somebody have another opinion?

share|improve this question
You almost certainly mean task. Simple! – Joe Blow Jul 6 '11 at 21:08
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Both are grammatically correct.

However, in my experience, a work is generally used to describe a piece of art.

share|improve this answer
Indeed. "Work" is countable only in special senses (such as works of art). – Colin Fine May 18 '11 at 12:57
You could say, "a piece of work" rather than "a work". – Steve Melnikoff May 18 '11 at 13:16
Or just "time needed to complete work," that what I would likely expect/use; see also business-y constructions like "statement of work," [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statement_of_work ] etc. – Joseph Weissman Jul 6 '11 at 20:17

It depends on what you’re trying to say, but it’s probably not correct.

First the more common situation: if you are (for instance) a student doing essays, or a mechanic working on cars, then the phrase you gave would not be correct. Instead, you could say something like

time needed to complete work


time needed to complete a task

or …this work, …the work, …my work, etc., depending on context. You can have one task but you can't have one 'work' (that sounds really wrong like 'one water').

A less common (but perfectly OK usage), 'work' as a count noun is typically only used for works of art. So if you are an artist explaining how long it takes you to finish a painting, then yes, you could talk about time needed to complete a work.

But that phrase standing alone without context sounds wrong.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.