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What are some ways to say "what do you do for work?". I've tried to say it a few different ways :

Quel est ton travail ?

Qu'est-ce que tu fais pour travail ?

but it seems that I'm just translating an English way of saying it.

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1  
How do you know what you tried doesn't work ? Give us what you have tried, you'll the fit stackexchange question format and also you'll get a better answer because we'll be able to give you tips on where you go wrong (if you do!) so that you do not repeat your mistakes. –  Laure Mar 6 at 18:21
    
Thanks, sorry, I'm new to this stackexchange. I've used "Quel est ton travail" or "Qu'est que tu fais pour travail?" –  mbanked Mar 6 at 19:20
    
it's actually not bad and pretty clear, the first one is actually fine, the second one totally clear, though not a way we're used to say it. –  zmo Mar 6 at 19:23
    
Thank you, but I'd like to say it a way that a franophone would typically say it –  mbanked Mar 6 at 19:27

4 Answers 4

what do you do for work?

What fits in a more formal way:

  • Que faites-vous dans la vie ? »
  • Que faites-vous comme travail ? »
  • Quel est votre travail ? »

if you want less formality, you can trade the “vous” for “tu” :

  • Que fais-tu dans la vie ? »
  • Que fais-tu comme travail ? »
  • Quel est ton travail ? »

less formal, "spoken" French:

  • Qu'est-ce que tu fais dans la vie ? »
  • Qu'est-ce que tu fais comme boulot ? »
  • C'est quoi ton travail ? »

Those last one are often used, and you may hear it often, though you have to understand that it's only used in spoken French and bad syntax.

Basically, “travail”, “job”, “boulot” or “taf” is often used and synonyms in french, though, in France you have to say “job” with a bad french accent to sound local ;-) And finally, “boulot” and “taf” are really to be used only with friends, the latter being really informal… Actually shouldn't really use “taf” until you're confident enough in your French and with who you can use it; I'm just telling you so you know if you hear that ;-)

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Why are you saying « Que faites-vous dans la vie ? » is more formal ? using tu/vous is not a question of being formal or not. « Qu'est-ce que tu fais dans la vie ? » and « Qu'est-ce que tu fais comme boulot ? » belong to two different registers because « boulot » is slang. « Que fais-tu dans la vie ? » and « Qu'est-ce que tu fais dans la vie ? » are equal as far as formality is concerned. –  Laure Mar 6 at 19:36
    
I consider the « Qu'est-ce que tu fais » as bad french syntax, so it's better for informality. –  zmo Mar 6 at 19:37
    
C'est tou à fait correct. « Qu'est-ce ... » est une une des possibilités pour poser une question, tout à fait grammaticale. –  Laure Mar 6 at 19:39
    
after checking, the « qu'est-ce que » form is totally correct, it's just a matter of my education making me rigorous even when it's not important ;-) Though it's still a question of register of speech. The « Qu'est-ce que tu fais » form is definitely spoken french and often used, while the « Que fais-tu » form is the way to go in written french and better suited in a formal environment. –  zmo Mar 6 at 19:42

To add to other answers:

Dans quel domaine travaillez-vous?

Dans quoi faites-vous carrière?

Que fais-tu comme métier?

Que fais-tu pour gagner ta vie?

That last one is not realy used in general, but might be used by a father discouraged when his son tells him he's going to study to get a degree in philosophy: « Ok, un baccalauréat en philosophie, mais qu'est-ce que tu vas faire pour gagner ta vie? ».

Que fais-tu pour gagner ton pain?

That last one is also not really used, but is there to suggest an idiom seen sometimes, implying that to get ones bread and butter, one has to work to get money to purchase said food.

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In a casual setting you can ask “Vous faites quoi?”

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though it does work, it can be misunderstood in wrong context. And when I'm being asked that, I often answer litterally and sarcastically something like "I'm talking with you, why are you asking?" ;-) –  zmo Mar 6 at 19:25
    
LOL. This is funny! –  Abhimanyu Arora Mar 6 at 19:25
    
@zmo: Those who are out of work (chomage) would tend to answer like you. :D –  Abhimanyu Arora Mar 7 at 18:02
    
Intelligent people can understand the context by the tone of the voice and other cues in a normal conversation :D –  Abhimanyu Arora Mar 7 at 18:07

Inversed forms for interrogatives are less and less used in spoken French. You are more likely to hear these kind of questions:

  • Vous faites quoi dans la vie ?
  • Vous travaillez dans quoi ? (even if the question is not directly asking for the job, the answer will generally mention it)

Informal:

  • Tu fais quoi comme travail / boulot ?
  • C'est quoi ton travail / boulot ?
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