What’s the difference between homework and housework?
These two words seem practically identical, but they actually have separate meanings and uses. I’ll clarify that in today’s lesson, so that you can be sure to use the right word.
And at the end I’ll also tell you about a common mistake that English learners often make with homework and housework.
How to use HOMEWORK in English
Homework refers to schoolwork that you do at home.
So if you’re in class, your teacher might give you homework – maybe a worksheet, maybe a book/article to read, maybe an exercise to do or something to research – and then you do that homework outside of class, at home.
Homework is usually extra practice or an additional assignment to help you practice what you learned inside class, or take your learning further.
How to use HOUSEWORK in English
Housework refers to the physical tasks that are necessary to take care of your house or apartment, the place where you live. We usually use housework to refer to cooking, cleaning, and laundry (washing your clothes).
So homework is schoolwork you do at home, and housework involves maintaining your living space.
What about “chores”?
One of my students asked if the word chores means the same thing as housework.
Yes – chores is another word we can use for those things that you have to do around the house. Washing dishes, sweeping the floor, cleaning the toilet, and so on. You probably don’t really enjoy them, but they need to get done.
And it’s also common to use this word chores you have a parent who makes their children help with these tasks. So the parent would say, “you have to do your chores.” You need to do those things around the house that you’re responsible for, like cleaning up your room or maybe helping with the laundry.
HOMEWORK and HOUSEWORK are always singular!
Now here’s an important detail – the word chore is countable, so you can have one chore, two chores, three chores, or a lot of chores to do.
But homework and housework are BOTH considered uncountable. So we always use them in the singular, always homework and housework, never homeworks or houseworks.
They are singular even when they refer to multiple tasks. So even if you have multiple assignments to do and multiple things to do in your house, it’s still only homework and housework.
You can talk about general quantity by saying a little homework/housework or a lot of homework/housework – but don’t use numbers, like “three homeworks,” and don’t add an S, “a lot of houseworks” – it’s not correct.
WORK / WORKS
This rule also applies to the word “work” – most of the time it’s singular.
Don’t say “I have a lot of works to do.” – the correct way would be “I have a lot of work to do.” You can say tasks, you can say projects, you can say assignments, you can say things – those can all be plural, but work is typically singular.
There’s one situation where we can say “works” and that’s specifically when we’re talking about works of art, works of music, or works of literature. So when we’re talking about productions in the artistic world, then sometimes we use works in the plural. For example, this is one of Picasso’s greatest works of art.
But in everyday life, when talking about the work you have to do, it’s always work, singular and same with homework and housework, singular.
Now you know the difference between homework and housework – and remember, doing homework is really important for reviewing and practicing what you learn!
A lot of our courses at Espresso English include homework. Sometimes that’s a quiz so you can test yourself on the lesson, and sometimes the homework is a writing task or speaking task where you can send your answers to our teaching team and get correction and feedback.
Our students often find this the most valuable part of our courses, because then you’re not just watching or reading or listening to me in English, but you’re also using English yourself. It really makes a difference in helping you learn and remember better.