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Work vs. Energy: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 6, 2023
Work is the force applied over a distance; energy is the capacity to do work or cause change.

Key Differences

Work, in physics, refers to the result of a force moving an object a certain distance. Energy, conversely, represents the ability or capacity to perform work.
Work is a process that results from the application of force over a displacement, and its magnitude is the product of force and distance in the direction of the force. Energy can exist in various forms, such as kinetic, potential, thermal, or chemical, and it provides the necessary power to execute work.
Work can transform energy from one form to another, energy itself is the fundamental currency that enables physical processes, including work, to occur. For instance, when work is done on an object to elevate it, gravitational potential energy is stored in that object.

Comparison Chart


Force applied over a distance
Capacity to do work or cause change


Measured in joules (in the context of physics)
Also measured in joules


Not conserved; depends on specific scenarios
Conserved; total energy remains constant in a system


Can transform energy from one form to another
Can be transferred or converted but not created/destroyed


Mechanical work (in the context of physics)
Kinetic, potential, thermal, chemical, etc.

Work and Energy Definitions


Employment or occupation.
She found work in a nearby store.


Vitality or intensity of expression.
She spoke with a lot of energy and passion.


To function or operate.
The machine works smoothly after the repair.


The ability to meet physical or mental demands.
He has the energy to finish the marathon.


Effort directed to produce or accomplish something.
The construction project required a lot of work.


A source of power, such as electricity.
The city gets its energy from the nearby power plant.


The result of a force moving an object.
I did work on the box by pushing it across the floor.


A feeling of health and strength.
After a good night's sleep, I have more energy.


A piece of art, literature, or music.
Shakespeare's works are studied worldwide.


The capacity to do work or cause change.
The car's engine transforms chemical energy into mechanical energy.


Physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something
Cleaning the basement was a lot of work.


The capacity for work or vigorous activity
Who has the energy to climb that trail?.


Such effort or activity by which one makes a living; employment
Looking for work.


Also energies Exertion of vigor or power
A project requiring a great deal of time and energy.
Devoted her energies to writing songs.


A trade, profession, or other means of livelihood
His work is fixing cars.


Vitality and intensity of expression
A speech delivered with energy and emotion.


How is work defined in physics?

In physics, work is defined as the result of a force moving an object over a distance.

What does it mean when we say work has been done on an object?

It means energy has been transferred to or from the object.

What's the significance of the law of conservation of energy?

It signifies that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only transferred or transformed.

How is the amount of work calculated?

The amount of work is calculated as the product of force and the distance over which it acts.

Can energy exist in different forms?

Yes, energy can exist in various forms such as kinetic, potential, thermal, and chemical.

What happens to energy when work is done?

When work is done, energy is transferred or transformed from one form to another.

How do machines make work easier?

Machines can change the direction, magnitude, or type of force, making tasks more manageable and efficient.

Can energy be created or destroyed?

No, according to the law of conservation of energy, energy can't be created or destroyed, only transformed.

What's the relationship between work and energy in physics?

In physics, work is the means by which energy is transferred or transformed.

Is the concept of work limited to physics?

No, the term "work" has various meanings, including employment or effort directed towards a task.

Is the energy in a closed system conserved?

Yes, in a closed system, the total energy is conserved, though it can change forms.

Can an object have zero energy?

No, objects will always have some form of energy, even if it's just thermal energy from their temperature.

How does kinetic energy relate to work?

Kinetic energy is the energy of motion, and work can be done to either give an object kinetic energy or take it away.

Can work be negative?

Yes, work is considered negative when the force and the direction of motion are opposite.

How is the concept of energy used in everyday life?

In everyday life, we use the concept of energy to describe everything from electricity to the vitality we feel.

Does every force applied result in work?

No, if there's no movement in the direction of the force, then no work is done.

Can work change the type of energy an object possesses?

Yes, for example, work can transform potential energy into kinetic energy.

What does energy represent?

Energy represents the ability or capacity to perform work or cause change.

In what units is energy typically measured?

Energy is typically measured in joules.

Can an object have energy without work being done on it?

Yes, for example, an object at a height has potential energy due to its position.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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