There are many questions in English that start with “what do you do?”

What do you do for fun? (What are your hobbies?)

What do you do for exercise? (How do you exercise?)

What do you do after work?

What do you do on the weekend?

All of these questions ask about a person’s habits or routines. However, the most common “what do you do” question is:

What do you do?

This question has a special meaning: what is your job? In my last post, I called phrases like this hidden idioms – common phrases that have been shortened and have a different meaning than expected. (The full phrase is “What do you do for a living?”)

How should you answer this question?  The most common answer is to reply with your job title:

I am a professor.

I am a businessman.

I am a hairdresser.

We do NOT say “My job is a professor.”  Another way to answer the question is to describe your job duties:

I teach English at Korea Nazarene University.

I sell accounting software to local businesses.

I cut hair at a salon.

Finally, if you are unemployed, a common euphemism is: “I’m between jobs.”

Advertisements