Drawing the semantic lines along the grammatical shades of “work” can be quiet befuddling especially when it has the “ing,” and the “ed,” inflections.
If you are not conversant with English nouns, you’d try as much as possible to avoid making one noun precede another in such a way that seems to suggest that the noun that comes before performs the modifying function traditionally ascribed to adjectives
What is the reason for this confusion? “Work” is a noun and a verb. The context determines whether it functions as a noun or a verb. But it is not as simple as it seems because “work” becomes an adjective – in certain instances – when you add the inflections “ing” and “ed.” Hence you can get “worked up,” or search for a “working definition.” A device or machine can be in a “working condition.” You may even have a “working experience.” Take a pause, don’t get it all muddled up.
In all of the above examples “worked” and “working” function as adjectives and not verbs. You say you are “worked up” when you get excited or upset about something. You use a “working definition” when you mean a definition that is functional/practicable. Your device is in “working condition” when it functions well. But a “working experience” is not so much of an experience that works as it is an experience that is useful.
It is however semantically clever to avoid “working experience” because it could easily mangle your meaning. Do you mean experience that works or experience that is working? Experience itself cannot do any job, it is the person who has the experience that can do the job. That is why it is semantically wise to use “work experience” when you intend referring to the experience someone has while doing a job.
Do not worry that “work” and “experience” are nouns. In English, a noun can be made to function as an adjective so that it qualifies another noun. Aside from “work experience,” you may also use the noun “University” to qualify “degree” so that you have “University degree.” There are many words in this category. Take note: working experience and work experience are grammatically sound but “working experience” should be avoided for its ambiguity.
Written by Omidire Idowu.