on (prep): 19 USING EQUIPMENT using a machine or piece of equipment

He’s been on the computer all afternoon.

Is Rachel still on the phone?

work on somebody/something phrasal verb

1 to spend time working in order to produce or repair something

He has spent the last two years working on a book about childcare.

Every weekend you see him working on his car.

2 to try very hard to improve or achieve something

A trainer has been brought in to work on her fitness.

work on doing something

We need to work on ensuring that the children feel safe and confident.

So, "he is working on his computer" may mean

- He is using his computer as a mean to do his work.


- He is repairing his computer (changing the Ram)

  • 1
    He is working at the computer. Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 13:06
  • 4
    It can mean both.
    – AIQ
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 13:08
  • Depends on the context.
    – Void
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 14:43

1 Answer 1


It could either mean "He is doing work using his computer" or "He is repairing, maintaining or upgrading his computer."

Both are possible. Without further context, the first meaning is more likely. Most people spend more time using their computer than fixing it. But I only know this from common sense. There is nothing in the words that states this. This is the wider context.

Note that, "He's working on his car" probably means that he is fixing it. Because while we might go to work by car, we don't use a car for work (a taxi driver might say "working in my taxi")

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