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in the following contexts, the words field, area and sector mean more or less the same thing to my non-native ears. However, I was wondering if the following sentences in the two pairs below mean the same:

a. What is your field of working?
b. What is your area of working?
c. What is your sector of working?

a. I work in the financial markets field.
b. I work in the the financial markets area.
c. I work in the financial markets sector.

If they don't then how should I distinguish between them?

PS. the provided dictionary definitions do not differ to the extent that I could recognize their nuances.

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  • For what it's worth, only your last sentence above sounds natural. We'd say: "What is your field/area/sector?" and "I work in financial markets."
    – gotube
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 14:44

1 Answer 1

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The words are different, but have enough overlap that they might be used interchangeably in some contexts. In my answer here, I'm only talking about academic or professional uses of the words.

"Field" refers to a broad area of study or work, like "education" or "information technology" or "finance".

"Area" can refer to any sized area of study or work, but is mostly used for more specific things, like "education for young people with hearing impairment", "technical support", or "wealth management".

"Sector" is similar to "field", but only applies to the professional world, never to study.

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  • Then how would you refer to the educational / academic area and professional / working area? I guess the sentence "what is your field / area / sector" sounds a bit off here and might mislead the listener while it is incomplete. I know that context is everything in English, but I think there is something missing here. May I ask you to let me know a bit more @gotube?
    – A-friend
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 16:11
  • @A-friend Can you give me a context where you would need to refer to those areas?
    – gotube
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 17:56
  • With pleasure @gotube. Let me makeup a scenario. In many eastern countries, when two people face each other for the first time and want to get to know each other more, it is not a very surprising question to be ask: "what's your field / sector / area of working?" Then, I am wondering which word would make an idiomatic collocation in this particular case?
    – A-friend
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 19:37
  • @A-friend If you're meeting someone for the first time, and you've already established that the other person has a job or is a post-secondary student, you can ask, "What's your field?" If they have a job, you can also ask, "In what sector?" Once you know they are, for instance, a medical doctor, you can ask, "What's your area of medicine?" It's like asking, "What's your focus/specialty?" We do not add "of working". We might add "of work", but even that's redundant
    – gotube
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 20:14

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