Language Lab

Often confused words: Homework vs. housework / overtime vs. overworked

Work and home are two of the most important places in many of our lives, so it’s no wonder there are so many English expressions related to both places. Many of the most commonly confused words I encounter as a teacher are either related to home or work. Let’s take a quick look at how to remember the difference between four of these common expressions.

Housework means chores (everyday tasks) you do around your house or apartment. For example: ironing, washing up, cleaning your house and taking out your trash are all housework tasks. If you feel tired at the end of a long day at work, when you get home you might say “I’m not doing any housework tonight. I’ll do my washing at the weekend instead.”

Homework is studying you do at home for your school or college. It is usually set by the teacher to be completed before a certain date. For example, the teacher might say “Please complete your writing task for homework and hand it in before the next lesson.”

When talking about our jobs, we don’t use ‘homework’ or ‘housework’. If we are able to work on things for our jobs without leaving our houses we can say that we ‘work from home’. For example “I need to wait for a package to be delivered so I am working from home today.” If you need to stay late at your office to complete some extra work, you can say you are ‘working overtime’ and if you just have too much work to complete, you can say you are ‘overworked’.

Let’s remind ourselves of those expressions:

  • housework – chores, like washing and cleaning
  • homework – schoolwork that you do at home
  • to work from home – to do your main job (that you earn money for) without leaving your house
  • to work overtime – to stay late at work
  • to be overworked – to have too much work to do

So, how about you? Who does the housework in your home? Did you have a lot of homework when you were at school? Do you ever work overtime? And, do you feel overworked?

Wil is a writer, teacher, learning technologist and keen language learner. He’s taught English in classrooms and online for nearly 10 years, trained teachers in using classroom and web technology, and written e-learning materials for several major websites. He speaks four languages and is currently looking for another one to start learning.


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