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I have a friend who always goes on that I have a bad work ethic, though I am not lazy. At the same time, he says he has a good work ethic, but is lazy.

The definition of having a good work ethic is that you believe work helps further your character/moral fibre, while the definition of lazy is not wanting to do work.

My friend usually treats homework as something that needs to be done, for its own sake. For example, if a maths problem is particularly difficult, then he'll skip over it. Nothing wrong with that per se, but if he later learns how to fix it, he does not bother because he's done with it. Thus, he is disinclined to do the work (lazy), but does it anyway (not an attribute of having a good work ethic).

What is a better adjective to describe my friend? Or, failing that, is there a quick way to describe him eloquently?

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Lackadaisical: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/lackadaisical

lack·a·dai·si·cal  (lk-dz-kl)
adj.
Lacking spirit, liveliness, or interest; languid

1. lacking vitality and purpose
2. lazy or idle, esp in a dreamy way

Indolent: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/indolent

in·do·lent  (nd-lnt)
adj.

a. Disinclined to exert oneself; habitually lazy. See Synonyms at lazy.
b. Conducive to inactivity or laziness; lethargic: humid, indolent weather

1. disliking work or effort; lazy; idle

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/half-hearted:

half-hearted
adj
without enthusiasm or determination

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/unenthusiastic:

unenthusiastic [ˌʌnɪnθjuːzɪˈæstɪk]
adj
lacking in enthusiasm
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  • Indolent is very, very good. Just to be safe however, I'll wait until tomorrow to accapt this answer. I was going to use Lackadaisical (knew it before hand) if no one could have gotten a better answer. I'd up vote if I could (Sorry: first time on English part of Stackexhange) – Timidger Jan 18 '13 at 2:04
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Your friend makes a perfunctory effort.

That is, he performs the task mechanically, with little personal attachment to the outcome.

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Colloquially, we can say such a person gives the job a lick and a promise.

Lately, such a person could be called a slacker, i.e.,

  1. One who shirks work or responsibility:
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Indolent and lackadaisical are both excellent adjectives to describe the material appearance of your friend's expenditure of effort. But what strikes me about your description is the dichotomy in fundamental motivation.

There is a certain type of student (arguably the majority in higher education) who are very good at doing school work simply because they are told to, and doing what is necessary to get good grades with the least amount of effort. These kinds of students do not care about the material or the act of learning per se, and though they seem to do well by societal standards, their education has fairly little impact on them. On the other hand, someone who cares deeply about learning something may be willing to work extremely hard just for the sake of how it will enrich them, but may be lazy about doing many kinds of "busy work" schools assign.

I don't know if I'm reading too much into what you said, but it sounds like your friend was the first type of student, and you more the second. It could probably be described more eloquently, but I felt it was important to point out that something about the fundamental motivation is lost with the adjectives above.

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