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As far as AmEng goes, is there any difference in using either homework, schoolwork, or assignment to call schoolwork given to students to be done at home? Can these be used just about interchangeably?

ASSIGNMENT vs. HOMEWORK

  1. assignment

An assignment is a task that someone is given to do, usually as part of their job.

My first major assignment as a reporter was to cover a large-scale riot.

An assignment is also a piece of academic work given to students.

The course has heavy reading assignments.

When class begins, he gives us an assignment and we have seven minutes to work at it.

In American English, an assignment is also a piece of work given to students to do at home. (emphasis is mine.)

  1. homework

Work given to schoolchildren to do at home is also called homework.

He never did any homework.

HOUSEWORK vs. HOMEWORK

  1. homework

Homework is work that school pupils (Chiefly BrEng)/students (Chiefly AmEng) are given to do at home.

Have you done your English homework?

  1. housework

Housework is work such as cleaning or washing that is done in a house.

She relied on him to do most of the housework.

Collins COBUILD English Usage

SCHOOLWORK

: work that is done in classes in a school or given to students to do at home.

Merriam-Webster

EDIT

Point to all of this is, if some native speakers of AmEng actually use exclusively "assignment" (or schoolwork) for "homework" in the sense "schoolwork done at home," wouldn't the reason for that be that "homework" might have a quite different meaning in their vernacular, e.g. "housework" or "work done on the home"?

Homeworker in the US is a person who works on homes or a person who works in homes (maid). It is not a "clear" phrase at all because it tends to have ambiguous or no/multiple meanings. It is certainly something that I would expect to hear from a foreigner in the US. (emphasis is mine.) RyeBread - ELU

Please, consider the following example:

I'll help you with your homework/schoolwork/assignments once I'm done with the housework. (standard AmEng)

-and-

I'll help you with your schoolwork/assignments once I'm done with the homework. (nonstandard regional AmEng?)

  • 2
    You should find some better references, there's no need to confuse our poor answerers with the completely unrelated "housework". – curiousdannii Mar 18 '16 at 10:37
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    Ah, I guess that's possible, but I really doubt it. Note that "home duties" is the same as housework. – curiousdannii Mar 18 '16 at 10:47
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    @Elian I don't think I have heard anyone say homework for housework. – James McLeod Mar 18 '16 at 10:48
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    Yes they are interchangeable for work assigned to be done at home. No, no one ever uses homework for housework or vice versa. (unless we contrive a situation where someone is taking home ec and is assigned the task of doing laundry or something) – Jim Mar 18 '16 at 10:49
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    Where I went to school (Australia), an assignment is a much larger project than homework. Homework might be a few short answer questions at the back of a chapter, while an assignment might be to do a series of studies and to produce a 1000-word report. – user3109672 Mar 18 '16 at 11:00
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I've always used these terms in a different way that @James McLeod is describing them. Perhaps they are regional differences.

Assignment: One singular task or project; large tasks may be broken up into smaller assignments. I may get one or more assignment per class. Whatever it is, it is thought of as a singular 'unit of work' when submitted or completed. Complex, multi-part, or really large assignments are generally referred to as projects.

Homework: The collection of all the assignments I have to do at home

Schoolwork: The collection of all the assignments I have to do for school, regardless of the location of where it is done. Can be a synonym for homework, but less frequently used as such.

(Further clarification after reading some comments): An assignment can also be done IN school. Assignment just means 'one task'. Which is why a lot of people do use homework assignment. They're specifying that this assignment is to be done at home (or at least, not during that class)


Not sure about other parts of the country, but I have never heard of homework used to describe not-related-to-school work done on or in the home.

Yes, Housework means work done for the house/home. This typically means tasks like cooking, cleaning, laundry, yard work, and small house repairs (when done on one's own home, this term is not used if professionals are called in).

I have never known a native speaker to confuse housework and homework, but if someone learning AmE were to mix the terms up, I do believe they would still be understood by most people.

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    I agree with this analysis. In my experience "in-class work" is the one clear-cut common term for "work done at school;" in contrast, "schoolwork" tends to mean simply "work done somewhere for school." – Sven Yargs Mar 19 '16 at 1:08
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The distinction I make is that an assignment is a larger project (an essay, a science fair project, a lab report), whereas homework includes assignments and day-to-day work like reading, doing a certain number of math problems, studying for a test, etc.

  • Interesting. Although those math problems were assigned as well as the reading. I make a distinction between doing homework and studying. – Jim Mar 18 '16 at 11:25
  • But when a parent asks a child "have you done your homework?" the intent is to find out if everything is done. – James McLeod Mar 18 '16 at 11:35
  • Agreed. "Homework" is a short assignment intended to be completed quickly (generally that same day) and used to reinforce that day's lesson. An "assignment" is a longer project that is completed over weeks or months, such as a science fair project, at-home experiment, a research paper, and so on. – Chris Bergin Mar 18 '16 at 14:57
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    A longer project was usually called a "project" (or, just as often, "long-term project") when I went to school. – Hot Licks Mar 18 '16 at 18:22

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