Some people just do their work superficially or they did not put 100% of their effort into doing the work and the product or the result that they created is often of low quality.

Do we say "she gave a lip service when she did her work" to say that she does her work with little effort?

If we can't say that, what is a better way to express that someone makes little effort to do things?

  • 2
    She gave lip service; you don't use the indefinite article 'a' before 'lip'. Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 7:33
  • "doed" is incorrect. The past tense of "do" is "did"
    – James K
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 20:07

3 Answers 3


Lip service implies the expression of support for something.

If she spoke about the importance of her work, but then did it poorly or with little gusto, you might say she paid lip service to its importance.

Lexico has examples of its use.

We generally pay lip service to something, rather than give it. (Though give is a little more common in the US than in the UK.)

There are many ways to say someone makes little effort. You might say he/she does it sporadically, when it suits him/her, half-heartedly, lazily, carelessly, shoddily, inattentively, without enthusiasm....

  • gave lip service is less common, but it's not unheard of: books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – stangdon
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 11:38
  • @stangdon Thanks. That's true, though it rarely appears in dictionaries. Looking into this a bit more, I found that while a Google Books (1 Jan 1941 – 31 Dec 1964) search for gave lip service returns 26 pages of hits, "gave lip service" Congress returns 21 of them! The 5 pages that don't mention Congress seem to be mostly from other US publications together with some Canadian and a few New Zealand ones. So perhaps we can say that gave lip service is used chiefly outside the UK. If you agree I'll edit my answer to mention this. Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 18:11
  • I'm not sure if the gave version is as un-UK as all that, but this Ngrams search definitely implies that in the UK, pay is much more common, while in the US, it's only moderately more common: give lip service:eng_us_2019,give lip service:eng_gb_2019,pay lip service:eng_us_2019,pay lip service:eng_gb_2019
    – stangdon
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 18:41

As mentioned in another answer, lip service refers to words without actions.

Some expressions which have the meaning you intend are:

(idiomatic) To fulfill a responsibility with a minimum effort rather than the appropriate level of effort.

Done only or merely to conform to a minimal standard or to fulfill a protocol or presumptive duty.


Your initial query of doing a poor job in little time is classic lip service.

But your later question about accomplishing the job while expending little effort is not necessarily lip service at all. If the person manages to do all that is expected but it doesn't take that person much effort, that is not lip service at all.

"Lip service" is much more about the quality of the final output rather than how much time it takes. Although if the person does put in a lot of effort but the product is still lousy, that too isn't lip service. That's just a lousy job.

  • 2
    No - lip service would mean saying that you were in favour of doing something but not making any effort to do it. Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 7:23

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