I'm intending to ask a question whether a person starts to work at seven or half past seven. Should I use:

Do you start to work at 7 or half past seven?


Do you start work at 7 or half past seven?

I believe the "to" is necessary but would appreciate if you could clarify. Many thanks

  • 3
    Work is a verb in the first sentence. It's a noun in the second sentence. – snailplane Apr 9 '15 at 12:51

The difference is subtle, but important.

Two quick translations...

Do you start work at 7 or half past seven?

Do you usually get to your place of work at 7 or 7.30?

Do you start to work at 7 or half past seven?

At whatever time you actually arrive there, do you actually commence doing that job at 7 or 7.30.

As it would be fairly rude to question their actual work ethic, it would be a lot safer to just ask them what time they usually get there ;-)

  • Welcome - I'm sure someone could come up with a sound grammatical reason as to why that is, but my 'rough translations' I think get the message across ;) – gone fishin' again. Apr 9 '15 at 12:09
  • It does. The thing is that both versions are correct. I was told the one with to is not grammatically correct which sounds odd to me. – Ivan Sivak Apr 9 '15 at 12:11
  • 3
    They're both grammatically correct, but imply slightly different things to a native speaker. – gone fishin' again. Apr 9 '15 at 12:14

Somehow, using 'preposition' with the word 'work' here does not convince me. The sole reason for that is 'work' here serves as a noun. So, to + nounis NO.

If I am asked to speak it naturally, I may prefer asking...

Do you start working at .... or
Do you start your work at ....

Others may come up with their answers. This is a good question.


I have to disagree with most of the answers on this page with the exception of Maulik's use of working and start your work. "Start to work" is ambiguous and can be interpreted as when someone begins travelling toward their workplace.

I get up in the morning, get in the car, and start to work. I arrive there in about 20 minutes.

Probably a regional thing but nonetheless is a possibility.

  • 1
    From my (BrE) point of view, "start to work" here doesn't have anything to do with going to work, and it's not really ambiguous. If you want to talk about the time that someone goes to work you would have to say "start to go to work", at which point you might as well just say "go to work". – Chris Down Apr 9 '15 at 15:18
  • You will find many uses in literature of "start to destination". "When the kids started to school it was snowing hard..." – Newclique Apr 14 '15 at 2:40
  • I've never heard "started to school". That sentence sounds ungrammatical to me. – Chris Down Apr 14 '15 at 2:41
  • Good thing we don't depend on you for grammatical correctness. Google the phrase and you will find it used extensively. – Newclique Apr 27 '15 at 3:27
  • I don't think searching Google for a phrase is exactly the pinnacle of evidence ;-) Most of the examples I found from a cursory search use "started to school" in a way I do understand -- using "school" here as a verb. The rest I think are not really understandable in BrE, but maybe they make sense in AmE. – Chris Down Apr 27 '15 at 8:09

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