It’s important to understand the difference between the infinitive form (“to work”) and the gerund form (“working”) when we’re looking at different words. While the rules apply to a wide range of words in English, we’ll look at “started to work” and “started working” today.
Started To Work vs. Started Working
“Started to work” should be used when someone or something works while already working previously – it’s known as the continuous form. “Started working” should be used when someone or something works again after a long time not working (or never working).
However, it’s also important to remember that both phrases are used interchangeably. In fact, there aren’t many cases that native English speakers will use the true independent meanings of either of the phrases. It’s good to learn the rules for them still, but they’re not necessary.
Should I Say: Has Started To Work Or Working?
Including the word “has” before either of the two phrases is fine. You can say either of the following:
- He has started to work again.
- He has started working again.
The has is used in this way as an auxiliary (or helping) verb to back up the verb form “to work.” Either way, the “has” doesn’t add anything extra to the meaning of the sentence, and it’s up to you whether you use it or you stick to something like this:
- He started to work again.
- He started working again.
The “has” slightly adds a variation in the tense. “Has” implies that he started working in the past, whereas without the “has,” it’s implied that the working is happening in the present.
Regardless of whether you use “has” or not, you should always remember one simple rule to tell the two forms apart.
If you include “to” in the phrase, keep the verb in the infinitive form (i.e., “to work”). If you don’t include “to” in the phrase, keep the verb in the gerund form (“working”).
I Have Started Working Vs. I Started Working?
When we include auxiliary and helping verbs in a sentence, it often helps us tell what tense we’re speaking in. You don’t have to use them, but they will help you (that’s why they’re known as helping verbs).
Using “have” in the sentence implies that the “working” is happening in the past.
- I have started working again.
This shows that while we have decided to start work again, we’ve already made the decision and most likely already signed up for a new job. This means that the decision is final and can’t be affected by anything in the present.
If we instead write:
- I started working again.
This generally means that we’re talking about something that is continually happening. It’s known as the continuous form, and we can decide what action we might want to do with it. The present tense has much more control over a phrase like this using the gerund form.
Imagine if we turned the verb and pronoun around for a second and turned them both into questions, though. What would happen then? Can we still use both forms interchangeably?
- Have you started working again?
- You started working again?
As you can see, there’s a bit of a form breakdown with the second sentence. It’s not grammatically correct because we’re not using “have” to ask the question. That’s why only the first sentence is correct, and it’s also why using “have” in a statement, in the same manner, is more commonly seen.
We thought it was time to show you some examples of the two in action without further ado. However, rather than simply giving you some correct examples, we thought we’d also include some incorrect ones to help you understand when one of the forms doesn’t work.
- Correct:I have started working on this project.
- Incorrect:I started to work for a company.
- Correct:I started working for this company last week.
- Incorrect:I started working tomorrow.
- Correct:I started working last week.
- Incorrect:I started working for this company since three years ago.
- Correct:I have started working on fixing myself
- Incorrect:I have started to work at my job.
- Correct:I started to work at my job this morning.
- Incorrect:I started working on my designs all year.
- Correct:I have started working on the documents you asked me to.
- Incorrect:I have started working next week.
While it may not be obvious at first, the biggest differences between the two are the tenses. If we use the wrong tense, it’s put into the “incorrect” examples to help you see when either form is used. Because both forms are correct, you most likely won’t run into much trouble!
What Tense Is Started Working?
Started working is used in the present continuous tense. This implies that something has happened in the past but is continuing on to the present.
The idea of a continuous tense shows that while something happened previously, we still have an impact on it in the present. “Started working” is a great example of the continuous tense, and you might notice how commonly “started + verb” is used in English.
Started Working Meaning
When we want to use “started working” in a sentence, it’s good to know what it means, so you’re using it correctly.
Started working means that you’ve taken action to begin a new job or activity. An object is also capable of this if the object was previously broken but is now fixed and able to work.
Synonyms For Started Working
Finally, let’s look at some good synonyms and alternatives you can use in place of “started working.” This way, if you’re struggling with any of the tenses we use with it, you can use an alternative instead that doesn’t worry about any of the difficult tense rules!
- Made a start
This one doesn’t always have to apply to employment. You can use this phrase in a variety of ways when new tasks are started.
A more formal way of saying that you have started to do something (most specifically related to work).
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.