I'm just wondering between 'go to work' and 'get to work'.

Today, I was working and one of my coworker was talking to me.

But I was so busy so just told him 'go to work~'

and he said 'I'm already here, you have to say 'get to work'.

because he knows I'm studying English so he tries to teach me English sometimes.

Anyway, what's the difference between them? Could anybody explain meaning of 'get to' in this sentence?

And I also want to know some other sentences using 'get to' to fully understand.

  • You can also say "Go back to work" meaning "Enough chat|distraction, focus on your job".
    – TimR
    Apr 30, 2017 at 16:32

2 Answers 2


Understand first that both "go to work" and "get to work" have multiple meanings. Both can refer to the process of traveling to your place of work. Both also mean "start working".

In the context of traveling, the difference is similar to the English use of "go" vs. "come". If I say I need to go to work then I picture myself moving toward my place of work. If instead I say I need to get to work then I picture myself already at work and the fact that I am not actually where I should be.

In terms of the second meaning, the difference is similarly subtle. "Go to work" is used when starting a project, while "get to work" can be used anytime to mean either "start work" or "work harder".

Which to use can vary with context:

All right team. We've prepared everything, now let's go to work building it!

Steve, stop chatting with Mary and get to work.

We're already way behind on this project; we need to get to work if we're going to finish it on time.

The team of lawyers went to work on the contract to see if they could find any grounds for a breach.

Note without any additional context, simply using "went to work" instead of "got to work" implies the process had just started. I could instead say:

The team of lawyers got to work on the contract ...

which would not necessarily change the meaning, but it also would not as strongly imply that it was just the start of the process.

In the example with your coworker, since it's assumed that he was already working and stopped to chat with you, then "get to work" is correct. Although, it probably would have been even more appropriate to say "get back to work":

Steven I'm really busy. Could you stop distracting me and get back to work? Thanks.


Get has many meanings in English, among them, it means arrive:

get to work, get home, get to the office. One example of the meaning.

Example: How do you get to work in the morning?

But careful: /Get to work./ can also mean: Get to work! = Start working! (Stop fooling around). In that sense, you cannot say go to work.

go to work=you are not at the place where you work.

Example: I go to work by bus.

**But careful: Go work! (stop fooling around).

Conclusion: /Get to work/ can mean /Go work/ but it cannot mean: go to work.

  • 1
    Did you know that you can use the italic (*italics* or _italics_) and bold italic typefaces on this site instead of forward slashes which usually denote phonemic transcription?
    – user3395
    Apr 30, 2017 at 14:17
  • Yes, I know but I like the utterances to be set off by slashes. It is my personal style. If you embed a sentence or utterance in a broader one, it's just easier to read. It clearly delineates it.
    – Lambie
    Apr 30, 2017 at 14:32
  • 1
    Well, I've never seen anyone using that style, so all I can tell you is that it's odd and distracting. You can set off utterances by using blockquotes, which is the accepted/standard practice on this site. You're also very inconsistent throughout, which is extra annoying, and I struggle reading your answer.
    – user3395
    Apr 30, 2017 at 14:48
  • 2
    Yes, I'm also confused by what the slashes indicate as they do not seem to be used consistently. Regardless, when you say "get to work" cannot mean "go to work" I disagree. If I am talking to someone before I leave to work I may lose track of time then look at my watch and say "Oh no! I have to go. I have to get to work".
    – kojow7
    Apr 30, 2017 at 23:00
  • Look, give me a break about the slashes. The slashes mean: This is an utterance. Go to work and get to work are not the same thing: If a guy is not doing his work in your office, you'd say: Get to work. The Meaning Is: Start doing your work. I have to get to work in your example means: I have to arrive at work. It doesn't mean; I have to start working. I explained that difference in my post. My first sentence was about get as arrive at a place.
    – Lambie
    Apr 30, 2017 at 23:45

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