El Aula – Trabajar- Using it Well

Trabajar.trabajar scale

In our book, this is a strange verb for many English speaking students of the Spanish language.

The reason that ‘trabajar’ causes so many problems is its ambiguity in English.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that when you say:

I’m going to work.

there is a lack of clarity in the sentence.

Do you mean: I am going to my place of work? or that: I am going to do some work?

Typically, when we say: ‘I am going to work’ we are referring to the noun ‘el trabajo’ and not the verb, ‘trabajar’.

Also, when we actually want to do some work, we often say:

I’m going to do some work now.

However, that isn’t always the case for everyone and so, when we are faced with creating the same sentence in Spanish, strange things begin to occur in our heads.

We know this from experience and from having to help hundreds of our students get things clear in their minds.

Trabajar, El Trabajo y Trabajo yo.

To add confusion to the mix, in Spanish we have three options that are very similar.

We can say:

I work = yo trabajo.

Work (the place of) = el trabajo

To work (action) = trabajar

 The common mistakes

One of the most common mistakes we hear is mixing up el trabajo with trabajar.

Por ejemplo:

Voy al trabajar = I’m going to the to work.

Voy a trabajo = I’m going I work.

The correct way

The right way is the following:

Voy al trabajo. = I’m going to my place of work. (and maybe will do some work)

Voy a trabajar. = I’m going to do some work.


Other valuable ways of using these words are the following:

Voy a estar en EL TRABAJO todo el día. = I’m going to be in my place of work all day.

Voy a trabajar todo el día. = I’m going to work all day.

Trabajo todo el día. = I work/I’m working all day.


When you want to know what someone does for work you can ask:

¿En qué trabajas?= In what do you work?

A similar question with more challenging pronunciation is:

¿A qué te dedicas? = What do you dedicate yourself to?

The second question is handy when it’s not sure that the person you are talking to works a conventional job.

En resumen

That just about covers the broad outline of what we discuss in the videoblog. We hope that that has been of value to you. It may seem like a small word, but, surprisingly, it’s one of the most searched for in Google.


Gordon y Cynthia 🙂

Video for This Spanish Lesson

Audio for This Spanish Lesson