Comparing "gongzuo" and "shangban"
Both 工作 (gōngzuò) and 上班 (shàngbān) can be verbs related to doing one's job. Both are used in formal and informal contexts. The difference is that 上班 means "to go to work" during one's normal work hours, whereas 工作 means "to work" in a less specific sense, and it can also be a noun.
|to work; a job
|to go to work
|Part of Speech
- 1 For "go to work" both 工作 and 上班 are roughly interchangeable
- 2 Use 工作 for "enter the workforce"
- 3 工作 is more general in usage and can also be a noun
- 4 上班 more specifically refers to "going to work"
- 5 上班 is a separable verb
- 6 The special case of "work from home"
- 7 Sources and further reading
For "go to work" both 工作 and 上班 are roughly interchangeable
Both words can be used to talk about the routine act of slaving away at one's job.
- 你 在 哪里 工作？ Where are you working?
- 我 今天 不 用 上班。 I don't have to work today.
- 因为 假期 调休，这个 星期 我 需要 上班 六 天。 I have to work six days this week because of the holiday transfer.
- 工作 的 时候 不 要 看 视频。 Don't watch videos at work.
- 你 下午 几 点 开始 工作？ What time do you start work in the afternoon?
Use 工作 for "enter the workforce"
This usage usually refers to a young person's status changing from "student" to "employed adult."
Free of context, these two phrases generally have these meanings:
- 工作 了 started working (found a job)
- 上班 了 started work (for the day)
Although both words can be used to refer to "starting to work a full-time job," 工作 is more common. See the following examples:
- 你 儿子 去年 毕业 了 吧？工作 了 吗？ Your son graduated last year, right? Is he working?
- 我 已经 工作 了，过年 没有 红包 了。 I'm already working, so I don't have any red envelopes for New Year's Eve.
- 我 现在 上班 了，我 可以 自己 挣钱 了。 I'm working now, so I can earn my own money.
工作 is more general in usage and can also be a noun
In addition to meaning just "work" or "a job" in general, 工作 as a verb can mean "to find a job and start working," as in the case of a student that has graduated and entered the workforce.
- 工作 经验 work experience
- 工作 签证 work visa
- 工作 压力 work pressure
- 工作 环境 work environment
- 你 的 工作 是 什么？ What is your job?
- 我 正在 申请 我 的 工作 签证 。 I am applying for my work visa.
- 我 觉得 在 家 工作 更 有效 。 I think it is more effective to work at home.
- 这个 星期 我 有 很 多 工作 。 I have a lot of work this week.
- 我 有 很 丰富 的 工作 经验 。 I have a lot of work experience.
上班 more specifically refers to "going to work"
上班 usually means physically commuting to work, working set hours, and possibly clocking in. Nowadays with all of the work from home, 上班 can sometimes be used for that form of virtual work as well.
- 上班 时间 work hours
- 上班 高峰 commute peak
- 我 每 天 走路 去 上班 。 I walk to work every day.
- 我 每 天 九 点 半 上班。 I go to work at 9:30 every day.
- 今天 老板 没有 来 上班 。 Today, my boss didn't come to work.
- 现在 应该 是 上班 高峰 时间 ， 但是 地铁 里 没有 人 。 It's supposed to be rush hour, but there's no one on the subway.
上班 is a separable verb
Because it's a separable verb, you'll sometimes see the two characters of 上班 separate. This cannot be done with 工作.
- 我 每 个 星期 上 四 天 班。 I work four days a week.
- 自从 我 上 了 班，我 变得 很 忙。 Since I started working, I've become very busy.
- 我 不 喜欢 这 家 公司，所以 我 上 了 三 天 班 我 就 辞职 了。 I didn't like the company, so I quit after three days of work.
The special case of "work from home"
Probably because it's so new, the English phrase "work from home" has three different common translations in Chinese. This use of 上班 is a little different from the standard ones above, since the employee isn't physically going to the office, although there may be some element of virtually "clocking in."
- 在家 工作 work from home
- 在家 上班 work from home
- 在家 办公work from home
- 我们 公司 不 允许 我们 在家 工作 。 Our company doesn't allow us to work from home.
- 现在 因为 在 家 上班 ， 所以 很 多 人 去 郊区 了 。 Nowadays, because they work at home, many people go to the suburbs.
- 我 更 喜欢 在 家 办公。 I prefer to work from home.