What Do You Do - Meaning and Answers

english phrases questions Aug 31, 2021
What Do You Do

 “What do you do?” may sound like a strange question to ask someone.  However, it’s very common for native English speakers to ask this question when first meeting someone, catching up with an old friend or getting to know someone for the first time.  

It’s a polite question that starts a conversation and gives you something to talk about.  English speakers usually make small talk with people they’ve just met and ‘what do you do?’ is a great way to start small talk.  In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at the meaning of “what do you do?” and how to answer it.


What Do You Do Meaning?

“What do you do?” is a polite way to ask someone what their job is or what they do to earn a living.  It’s short for “what do you do for a living?”  It’s considered polite because not everyone has a job, so asking someone “what’s your job?” could lead to a dead-end in a conversation and it can be awkward to answer if the person doesn’t have a job.  


For example:

“What’s your job?”

“Oh, I don’t work.”


Compared with:

“What do you do?”

“I’m between jobs at the moment, but I’m a nurse.  What about you?”


The second example gives the person answering the question more space to talk about themselves, their passions, what they do and what they would love to do.  The first example didn’t take the conversation very far.  It’s awkward and there are no follow-up questions that the person asking the question can ask to keep the conversation going.  


So, the next time you meet someone ask ‘what do you do?’ instead of ‘what is your job?’ and the conversation should develop into something interesting.


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What Do U Do

It’s common for English speakers to use ‘u’ instead of ‘you’ when texting friends.  The letter ‘u’ and the word ‘you’ have the same sound, so native English speakers shorten their text messages by typing ‘u’ instead of writing ‘you.’  This is only acceptable when texting informally with friends.  In every other situation, we must use ‘you’ instead of ‘u.’


What Do You Do Answers in English 

This is an opportunity to share the most interesting points about your job and work life.  The person asking ‘what do you do?’ wants to know what an average day in your life looks like and what makes your job exciting.  It’s considered small talk and is intended as an opportunity to get to know a bit more about each other.

You can answer ‘how do you do?’ in several ways:

  • Talk about your job and what you do day to day;
  • Talk about your job and what you would like about it;
  • Talk about your passions and why you love your job;
  • If you don’t like your job, briefly mention your job and then talk about what you’d prefer to do;
  • If you don’t like your job, try not to bring the other person down by speaking negatively;
  • Talk about the aspects of your job that are relatable - don’t ramble on about the technical side that most people won’t understand;
  • Talk about your achievements at work;
  • Don’t talk about the boring stuff;
  • Keep it light-hearted and entertaining;
  • Talk about where you started and where you are now;
  • And, most importantly, don’t forget to ask the question to whomever you are speaking with.