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Is There Any Difference Between “What Are You Working On” And “What Are You Doing”? (Explained)

Is There Any Difference Between “What Are You Working On” And “What Are You Doing”? (Explained)

English grammar comprises a system of principles that govern the arrangement and structure of words within sentences, serving as a fundamental framework for effective communication in the language’s written and spoken forms.

What are you doing? and “What are you working on?” are systematic queries about recent actions.

While both questions share a similar purpose, the former is commonly employed in professional or task-oriented contexts, whereas the latter is more informal and general.

“What are you doing?” can be used to address anyone involved in any activity, even one that only lasts a few seconds, whereas “What are you working on?” often cannot denote a project that will take more than a few seconds to complete.

The two phrases may occasionally be used interchangeably. Therefore, unless there were a lot of vegetables to wash, I would inquire, “What are you doing?” as resisted too, “What are you working on?”

“What You Working On” vs. “What You Doing”

Their usage and connotations differ between “What are you working on?” and “What are you doing?”

English grammar
English grammar

“What you are working on” is typically used to refer to specific tasks, projects, or assignments that someone is actively engaged in with a focus on work or professional activities.

It implies a more task-oriented or project-related context and is often used in professional settings to ask about someone’s ongoing work-related activities. 

What are you doing?”: It can be used to describe any activity or work that the individual is presently doing, including hobbies, free time activities, household tasks, or just passing the time. 

While both questions inquire about ongoing activities, “What are you doing?” is more frequently used in a casual setting, whereas “What are you working on?” is more all-encompassing and casual, including a wider range of activities than work or responsibilities.

Aspect What are you doing? What are you working on? 
Context General, the informal Professional, task-oriented 
Usage Wide range of activities (e.g., hobbies, leisure, chores, etc.) Work-related activities or tasks 
Connotation Informal, casual More formal, focused on work or tasks 
Expected Response Any current activity or task, not necessarily work-related Specific work-related activities, projects, or tasks 
Appropriate Settings Everyday conversations, social settings Work environments, professional discussions 
Comparison Table Between the Two Phrases

Is it Okay to Use it this Way, “What are You Working On? I am Washing the Vegetables.”

The question “What are you working on?” is grammatically correct, followed by the response “I am washing the vegetables.”

However, it may not be the most appropriate or expected response, as “What are you working on?” is typically used in a professional or task-oriented context, and the response “I am washing the vegetables” may not directly relate to work or tasks. 

The response would be appropriate if you wash vegetables in a professional or work-related context, such as in a restaurant or a food processing facility. However, responding to work-related activities or tasks would be more accurate if the question is asked in a general context. 

Is it Correct to Say I am Working on it? 

“I am working on it” is a correct and commonly used phrase in English. It is a present continuous tense construction that indicates ongoing action in the present.

“Working on” can be used in diverse contexts, including professional projects, personal tasks, assignments, or any other endeavors in which you are currently actively engaged. 

For example: 

  • “I am working on my thesis report.” 
  • “I am working on a portrait for my exhibition.” 
  • “I am improving my fitness by going to the gym regularly.” 

It’s essential to use proper grammar and tense when expressing ongoing actions, and “I am working on” is a grammatically correct way to convey that you are currently engaged in a particular task or activity. 

"I am working on an art project"
“I am working on an art project”

What is Another Way to Say, “Working On”? 

Several synonyms or alternative phrases can convey the idea of “working on” in English. Here are some examples: 

  1. Engaged in: “I was engaged in a company project.” 
  1. Busy with: “She is busy with her research.” 
  1. Involved in: “She is involved in a recent enterprise.” 
  1. Occupied with: “You are occupied with the tools on the website.” 
  1. Devoted to: “He is totally devoted to his work.” 
  1. Focused on: “He is focused on finishing the essay.” 
  1. Tasked with: “They are tasked with developing a marketing strategy.” 

These phrases can be used interchangeably with “working on” to describe someone’s current activities, tasks, or projects. The choice of expression may depend on the context, tone, and level of formality of the communication

Should We Use the Verb “Work” Over “Working”? 

It depends on the context and what you are trying to convey in your sentence. In general, if you are asking about someone’s current activity in a broad sense, without specifying a continuous action, you can use the verb “work.”

For example: 

“What work are you currently doing?” 

In this case, “work” functions as a noun, referring to the task or project the person is engaged in. 

If you want to highlight that the activity or task is ongoing and in progress, you can use the present participle “working” as part of a continuous verb tense. It indicates that the person is currently engaged in the activity or task at the time of asking.

For example: 

“What are you currently working on?” 

In this case, “working” functions as a gerund, a verb used as a noun to describe an ongoing action. 

Both “work” and “working” are grammatically correct and can be used in appropriate contexts. The choice between them depends on the specific meaning and emphasis you want to convey in your sentence. 

The phrase "working on" has various synonyms
The phrase “working on” has various synonyms.

What Does “What Are You Doing” Mean Formally?

The formal way of inquiring about someone’s well-being in English could be: 

  1. “May I inquire about your current activity or task, if you don’t mind sharing?” 

This phrasing uses the polite phrase “May I inquire” to ask for permission and acknowledges the person’s potential reluctance to share. It also specifies “current activity or task” to indicate a specific action or work. 

  1. Will you kindly tell me what you are working on now or what you are currently working on?

This sentence uses formal language like “Would you be so kind” and “enlighten” to convey politeness and respect. “Present occupation or work in progress” is a more formal way to refer to the person’s current activity or task. 

  1. “I was curious to know what task or project you are currently engaged in if you don’t mind sharing?” 

This phrasing combines a polite and curious tone with “I was curious to know” and acknowledges the person’s potential reluctance to share. It also uses “task or project” to imply a purposeful activity or work. 

Overall, in formal settings, it’s important to use polite and respectful language when inquiring about someone’s current activity or task and to be mindful of the context and tone of the conversation. 

What Reaction to “What Are You Doing” is Most Suitable?

Here are some examples of appropriate responses: 

  1. If you are engaged in a specific activity: “I am reading a book,” “I am cooking dinner,” “I am working on a report,” etc. 
  1. If you are in a general or leisurely activity: “I am relaxing at home,” “I am watching a movie,” “I am playing video games,” etc. 
  1. If you are in a social gathering: I’m currently socializing and catching up with friends. “Right now, I’m attending a lively party. I’m enjoying a lovely dinner with my family now.”
  1. If you are busy with a task or errand: “I am running errands,” “I am doing laundry,” “I am cleaning the house,” etc. 

It’s essential to provide an honest and accurate response based on your current activity in the given context. 

Let’s watch this video and learn how to talk about routines.

Is it Right to Say What Are You Doing? 

The inquiry “What are you doing?” is grammatically suitable and repeatedly utilized in English to ask about someone’s current task or activity.

Which Expression is Correct: “I’ve already started working on it” or “I ‘ve already started to work on it”?  

Both expressions are grammatically correct and commonly used. The choice depends on personal preference and context.

“I’ve already started working on it” is more casual, while “I’ve already started to work on it” may sound slightly more formal. 


  • “What are you working on” is a question that typically refers to specific tasks or projects related to work or professional activities. 
  • It implies a task-oriented or project-related context and is commonly used in professional settings. 
  • “What are you doing” is a more general question encompassing a more comprehensive range of activities beyond work, including personal, recreational, or other activities. 
  • It is a broad, open-ended question that can be used in various contexts. 
  • Example response: “I am washing the vegetables” would be more appropriate as a response to “What are you doing” as it refers to general activity. It would not be a suitable response to “What are you working on” as it does not relate to work or professional activities. 

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