What is the difference between the following?

Was ist dein Beruf?
Was bist du von Beruf?

They translate to the following:

What is your job?
What are you doing for living?

  • 2
    I removed your second question as we prefer one question per question. I encourage you to ask it as a separate question though.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 9:14
  • "Was machen Sie beruflich?" is a a locution I've encountered. Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 3:47

3 Answers 3


"Was ist dein Beruf?" is simply less common to say because it sounds like the job is something you own. It also sounds a bit more like it's something that you are pretty much born with and which is impossible to change.

"Was bist du von Beruf?" sounds more like you can actually switch to another type of career if you felt like it, and is definitely more common to use.


"Was ist dein Beruf?"

is used less often, as far as I know. It's not wrong at all, but it sounds like you want to know an attribute for the other person. I could also imagine that it's used if someone wants to know what exactly the other person's job is, or if you have a selection of jobs to be assigned to the person you are talking to.

"Was bist du von beruf?

Has a similar meaning of the English phrase "What do you do for a living?". It sounds more pleasant to hear if someone asks you that, because it shows that the questioner is interested in what you do, while "Was ist dein Beruf?" doesn't necessarily show that.

"Was ist dein Beruf?"

This can be translated as: What is your job ?

"Was bist du von Beruf?

This is pretty much the same question, but in a bad German, only children would ask this question.

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