Thursday, 2 February 2012

What Do You Do For A Living?

Imagine you are talking to someone who does not know you very well. It could be an acquaintance, a work colleague or even someone you have just met. The other person wants to know your occupation/ profession. So, he/ she decides to ask you "what do you do for a living?".

The other person could choose to be a bit less formal and say:
¿A qué te dedicas?

Alternatively, he/ she could choose to be a little bit more formal and say:
¿A qué se dedica (usted)?


The first thing to note is that, when you talk about what you do for a living, you DO NOT need to be concerned about the level of formality in the other person's question. Your main concern should be about saying something about what you do for a living. Perhaps you want to:
  • Give your job/ occupation*.
  • Identify where you work.
    • Sector
    • Employer/ self-employed
    • Type of workplace
    • Workplace location
  • Indicate whether you do full-time/ part-time work.

*Please note that some of these expressions vary in accordance with the gender of the person speaking. For our purpose here, we will assume that two people may be speaking:
  • A male called Pedro.
  • A female called Ana

Here are some examples of how you could describe your job:

  • Soy camarera (I am a waitress -María speaking)*.
  • Soy camarero (I am a waiter -Pedro speaking)*.
  • Soy médica ( I am a doctor -María speaking)*.
  • Soy médico ( I am a doctor -Pedro speaking)*.
  • Soy funcionaria (I am a civil servant -María speaking)*.
  • Soy funcionario (I am a civil servant -Pedro speaking)*.
  • Soy dentista (I am a dentist -either María or Pedro speaking)*.
  • Trabajo en la construcción (I work in the construction sector -either María or Pedro speaking).
  • Trabajo en la seguridad social (I work in the National Health Service-either Pedro or Ana speaking).
  • Trabajo en un hospital (I work in a hospital-either Pedro or Ana speaking).
  • Trabajo en Madrid (I work in Madrid-either Pedro or Ana speaking).
  • Me dedico al periodismo (I am in journalism -either María or Pedro speaking).
  • Trabajo en recursos humanos (I am human resources -either María or Pedro speaking).
  • Trabajo en el Banco de España (I work for the Bank of Spain).
  • Soy autónoma (I am self-employed -María speaking).
  • Soy autónomo (I am self-employed -Pedro speaking).
  • Trabajo por mi cuenta (I am self- employed).
  • Trabajo desde casa (I work from home).
  • Trabajo a tiempo parcial en una clínica (I work part-time in a clinic-either Pedro or Ana speaking).

*Please note that when talking about professions/ occupations the "a" in English expressions, such as "I am a doctor" is not translated into Spanish. In Spanish, that expression is simply translated as "soy médico/ médica".

Now you should practice answering the question:
¿A qué te dedicas?

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