Was arbeitest du?

I came across this in a udemy course I am doing but the explanation is unclear. Does it mean ‘what do you work at?’ or ‘what are you working on?’, or something else?

  • What is a udemy course? And what was the explanation? Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 22:22
  • 1
    @userunknown That's online courses for various things, including languages.
    – PerlDuck
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 12:43
  • @user unknown: It was left unexplained actually - inplied the translation was 'what do you work as?' though. Udemy.com has some free German courses to try out. Quality is mixed but these ones are overall quite good.
    – hinterbu
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 15:04
  • So the explanation was not unclear, but didn't exist? You should correct your question, then. If possible (no registration requiered), you can add a link. Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 19:49
  • No the question stands as it is and has been answered.
    – hinterbu
    Commented Nov 19, 2016 at 18:30

3 Answers 3


Was arbeitest du?

This can mean a number of things:

  • What, you’re working? (although that would typically include a comma between was and arbeitest)

  • What are you working (on)?

  • What do you work as? (asking for a profession/job)

In my opinion, the third interpretation is most likely, however, I would have no problems using the second interpretation given appropriate context. Typically, though, if you are asking what somebody is working on, the question would be:

Woran arbeitest du?

I am unfamiliar with an English expression to work at something hence I cannot tell you how that would be translated.


In addition to the great accepted answer:

In Germany, it's usually the third one "What is your job?", but don't remember that one tooooo well: It's basically a German "Watcha workin as?". Yes, people talk like that, but you may not want to learn it FIRST, when new to the language. ;)

Better are "Was ist dein Beruf?" or actually "Was ist dein Job?". While "Job" CAN sound negative in some special contexts (just like in English), Germans adopted the word completely.


Depending on context I'd suggest

What do you do for a living?

which means What is your profession? or What is your job?

  • Trump wird bald als Präsident arbeiten, für 1$ pro Jahr, wie man hört.Allgemein sind ehrenamtliche Jobs nicht selten oder Arbeit in der Freizeit (Hausbau, Renovierung, Gärtnern, Hausarbeit, ...). Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 22:21

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