Is it appropriate to say that an inanimate object, such as a wall, can ‘perform a job‘? I thought as there is no physical task occurring, as the wall is passive, that the more correct phrase would be for it to ‘have a purpose’.

  • 2
    Who will argue if you say that a weight-bearing wall supports the floor above it? Mar 8 at 19:30
  • 1
    The phrase "do the job" is so commonly used for this in English that it's defined as a specific idiom. Mar 8 at 19:34
  • 1
    When the roof falls on your head you will appreciate the 'passive' job that the wall is doing.
    – Jelila
    Mar 8 at 19:45
  • There are reasonable precedents. 'This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall .... ' (Shakespeare) Mar 8 at 19:46
  • It isn't personification. Performance is an idea equally at home in the inanimate world, and we ask how things performed during a test.
    – Phil Sweet
    Mar 9 at 2:02

Yes - but, as always, it depends on the context: 'That wall did a brilliant job stopping that car!' 'That paint scheme does a really good job highlighting the room.' and so on.

  • Also "That under-specified beam did a terrible job of supporting the upper floor". Objects can perform tasks badly as well.
    – BoldBen
    Mar 9 at 1:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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