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At work vs In work

at work

1. at one’s place of employment:

  • He’s at work now, but he’ll be back at six.

2. engaged in a particular activity:

  • The poor woman was still hard at work at an ironing-table.

3. having a particular influence or effect:

  • The same disastrous processes are at work in the whole of this area.

in work

1. having employment:

  • He has been out of work for a year. He’ll be glad to be in regular work again.

2. in process of preparation or completion:

  • The company has three films in work right now.

3. (of a horse) in training:

  • I had two horses in work during November and December.


a) The expression does not fully correlate in meaning with the phrase in the works— = in work 2:

  • A plan of reorganization is reported to be now in the works.

b) The expression does not correlate in meaning with the phrase in laborexperiencing the pains and efforts of childbirth:

  • Vane had been in labor for eight hours before her twin daughters were finally born.