Spying is what I do.

Is this sentence correct?

If someone asks me "What do you do?", can I reply with the above sentence?

  • 2
    Yes, if you don't care what happens next. – John Lawler Mar 14 '14 at 18:49
  • Funny, I used to work for NSA. I could answer that question, but then I'd have to kill you. :) – Jolenealaska Mar 14 '14 at 18:54
  • If I were a spy and were asked "What do you do?", I'd probably say almost anything other than spying...but if I were for some reason being honest, I'd just say "I'm a spy" rather than "Spying is what I do". The former would be a more proper response unless you were going for some effect like those given as examples by Chris M – Doc Mar 15 '14 at 2:42

Jolenealaska's answer is spot on, but just to add, there is a case where this phrase could be used without directly answering a question about what you do. You could think of it as answering an implicit question, but also 'what I do' can be used figuratively, e.g. if you are really good (or confident) at spying, but not a spy.

If the subject of spying has been raised in a way that may involve you, you could mention your spying skills - whether or not your job is to be a spy - with this response.

E.g., your spying skills are being doubted, and you defend them:

A: Are you sure you'll be OK with spying on C? It's not easy, you know!

B: Relax! Spying is what I do!

E.g., a spy is being sought, but nobody knows that you are a spy, so you volunteer:

A: We need to find out what C is up to... We need someone good at spying. Who could do that?

B: I'll do it. Spying is what I do!

A: I always wondered what your job was...

P.S.: Psst! If you are a spy, you should probably keep it quiet ;)

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Yes, that line is correct. "Spying" becomes a kind of noun, a gerund. "Plumbing is what I do." To use "spying" or "plumbing" in that way implies that you take the job seriously, that it's really a part of you. Here's a great explanation of gerunds from Cliff Notes

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Yes, it is correct, and generally it is the more usual word order than "What I do is spying." A more precise term is "espionage", which like so many of our "more precise" terms, is simply the French word for spying. :)

A few more ways of responding to "What do you do?"

I'm a spy/intelligence agent.
I'm involved in espionage/the intelligence field.
I work for the CIA. (Really answering the implied question "Who do you work for?")

| improve this answer | |
  • "I spy for a living." – J.R. Mar 14 '14 at 21:38

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