For example, your work shift starts every day at 8:00pm and ends at 5:00am in the morning the next day. If you wanted to explain this to someone, but you do not need to be specific about the start and end times, how would you say this?

My shift crosses a/the date/dates.
My shift spreads over two days.
My shift goes across a/the date/dates.
My shift crosses/passes the midnight.
My shift spreads across two days.

I am not sure how to describe this, and I only came up with the ones listed above. I don't even know they make sense. Can someone please tell me what is the most natural way to say this?

I don't want it to be too long like:

My shift starts and ends on different days.
My shift starts on a day and ends the next day.

Edit 1: Thanks everyone for the comments and answers. I have actually heard people say "I work the night shift", and "I have an overnight shift." This seems to be the most natural way to say this.

Now, as I mentioned in one of my comments, I am creating a manual for my clients. The manual is for a computer system I created that allows the user to enter their shift time details (such as start time, break time, and end time). In some cases in the manual, there will be a case where I would like to start the sentence with "If your shift ... ". In this case, how would you say what I want to say?

Can you just say "If your shift is overnight"?

Edit 2 Thanks again everyone. I am also thinking both

If your shift crosses over to the next day
If your shift goes into the next day

might work too. Do these sound natural to you guys?

  • crosses, spreads over, spans, covers, includes, straddles,... take your pick from any number of related "synonyms". Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 15:26
  • What should the "object" of those verbs though? I got that verb span goes well with two days but can those verbs you listed be used with two days as well?
    – jun
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 15:28
  • 10
    Or just say "I work an overnight shift". Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 15:30
  • 5
    @FumbleFingers Or even shorter - the good old British "I'm on nights"!
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 15:50
  • 2
    @WS2: My daughter is a care worker doing 24-hour shifts (looking after a single charge who simply doesn't have any meaningful diurnal rhythm). Shifts start and end at 9:00am, and on any given occasion she's unlikely to snatch more than 2-3 (non-consecutive) hours sleep. In fact, as I understand things the "staff bed" doesn't even get used at all most nights, but if she said I work nights I doubt many people would say that was a useful description of her normal work pattern. Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 16:11

3 Answers 3


You can say that your shift spans two days.

span verb 2 Extend across (a period of time or a range of subjects) ‘A complete planning cycle should ideally span a period of about three to five years.’ - ODO

Here's a usage example (emphasis, mine):

We are pleased to be supporting this Bill, which amends the Holidays Act 2003 to ensure that when a work shift spans two days, at least one of which is a public holiday, an employer and employee can enter into an agreement to transfer the public holiday to cover one whole shift. - Flavell: Transfer of Public Holidays Bill, Scoop

  • 1
    Thank you! That is a good one. I am writing a manual for my clients, but I am not a native English speaker, and I wasn't sure which expression I should use. Is there any other common ways Americans use, for my future reference?
    – jun
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 15:17
  • 2
    This is ambiguous. It could mean that the shift lasts 48 hours, which is definitely not what the OP means!
    – jpaugh
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 2:44
  • @jpaugh The ambiguity is ok (and arguably is what the OP wanted) because the OP deliberately wants to avoid specifying the start and end times. The examples provided in the question (e.g. “My shift spreads over two days”) aren’t any more specific than that the shift spans 2 days.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 6:15
  • @jun You’re welcome. I’m not American, so won’t venture to specifically AmE expressions here. In Australian English (which is close to BrE), the overnight and graveyard shifts suggested in the other answers would be well understood.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 6:21
  • What is AmE and BrE?
    – jun
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 4:02

The shortest way to say this would probably be

I work an overnight shift.

This means that you start at some point in the evening and finish at some point the following morning.

For phrasing it as a conditional, you might say "If you are on an overnight shift" or "If you are working an overnight shift", but I do think that "If your shift is overnight" is acceptable.

  • I agree with StoneyB that this makes a good comment. Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 16:32
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth I am open to suggestions for improving it....
    – Hellion
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 16:40
  • 1
    I agree with StoneyB that, as it is only a minor tweak on what OP suggests, it does not warrant an 'answer', especially one that repeats the 'comment'. Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 17:08

I know of several ways to describe working through the night into the next morning:

I work the night shift.

This phrase can, depending on context, imply that you work through to the next morning or that you work in the late evening. Context is king.

I work the overnight shift.

(See definitions 4, 5, and 6) This phrase on the other hand is specific to the case of you working through the night and into the next morning.

I work the graveyard shift.

The graveyard shift is an overnight shift. This is a more colloquial phrase that native speakers (at least in the U.S., likely U.K. as well) will know but others might not know.

  • To me the default night shift is 1600-2400 and the default graveyard is 0000-0800, neither of which crosses midnight. Others may have a different view. Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 1:34

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