My sister works but her husband doesn't work/is unemployed

wolfbm1

Senior Member
Polish
Hello.
I describe a picture of my family. Can I say:
"This is my older sister Irena and this is my younger sister Ala and her husband Nick. Irena is retired now but Ala still works. She's an architect. Nick's a computer programmer but he doesn't work."
Could I also say "Nick is a computer programmer but he is unemployed"? Would it sound too formal?
 
  • Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    To say someone is 'unemployed' has a slightly pejorative association, at least in BE at present. I would probably say "But Nick is not working at the moment" - that sounds as if it might be his choice not to work.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    My feeling is that, at least in AE, different phrases here would have different implications. "Doesn't work" suggests that despite his professional skills, Nick chooses not to do any work and relies on his wife's earnings; if that's because he's ill or disabled, it's necessary to add that. "Is unemployed" suggests (to me, anyway) that he's been that way for a while, and not by choice. "Is between jobs" says that he's not employed right now, that he left a job not too long ago (he may have quit or may have been laid off or fired) and hopes or expects to have a new one soon. Be sure not to use "doesn't work" if you mean that he isn't employed by some company; he may be a self-employed programmer. (His wife the architect may also be self-employed.)
     

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thank you, Parla.
    "Is between jobs" is an interesting expression. I think it is equivalent to Elwintee's suggestion "is not working at the moment."
    "He doesn't work" may probably sound like "he is an unemployed moron, bum or tramp". So, it is better to avoid it in the above context.
     
    Last edited:

    wolfbm1

    Senior Member
    Polish
    To say someone is 'unemployed' has a slightly pejorative association, at least in BE at present. I would probably say "But Nick is not working at the moment" - that sounds as if it might be his choice not to work.
    Thank you, Elwintee.
    So, 'unemployed' can have a pejorative meaning in the above context. Se16teddy told me that it may sound passive and legalistic. I guess it is used by government workers to describe one's employment status.
     
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