Her job is specific to answering phone calls.

The sentence above seems a bit awkward to me. What is meant here is that her job is to answer phone calls; that's her only responsibility.

But it's difficult to explain why we'd better avoid "specific" in this context since dictionaries give the following definitions:

  • specific (to): limited to one particular thing (Macmillan Dictionary)
  • something that is specific to a particular thing is connected with that thing only (Collins dictionary)

After all, would you say "specific to" can be used in the sentence above? If not, why?

  • I don't find your sentence awkward at all. Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 3:09

1 Answer 1


It may be awkward, but it's not uncommon for native speakers to use "specific" in this way. To make it less awkward, move the adjective next to the noun it modifies:

Her specific job is answering phone calls.

"Job responsibility" is also used:

Her specific job responsibility is answering phone calls.

Alternately, because she has only one job/job responsibility, you can use "only" or "sole":

Her only job is to answer phone calls.

Her sole job responsibility is answering phone calls.

plus various other options.

Note that I use either the gerund phrase "answering phone calls" or the infinitive phrase "to answer phone calls". These are more or less interchangeable in this context. The adverb phrase "to answering phone calls" is not wrong, but is (in my opinion) unnecessarily wordy. I prefer simple and direct statements, where possible.

  • Thank you. So, you agree that "her job is specific to..." may be awkward, even though people sometimes use "specific" like that. Why does it sound awkward? What's wrong with "her job is specific to answering phone calls"?
    – Enguroo
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 1:24
  • @Enguroo There's nothing wrong with it. It might be fine in the right context, but as I said, in expository writing, short, simple declarations are often better. It would be too long to list the various rules of good English style, but here are some basics.
    – Andrew
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 1:33

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