Difference Between Work and Energy

Even though joule (J) refers to the SI unit of both work and energy, specific fundamental differences separate one from the other. Consequently, you should know about the finer points of work and energy individually to get better clarity on the difference between work and energy. 

Here, take note of what is work and energy before moving on to their differences.


What is Work? 

Work essentially measures the transfer of energy involved in moving an object by an external force. Moreover, it has to cover a distance in a specific direction with the help of the applied force for it to be considered work. It means, the concept of work hinges on that of displacement. 

Some of the Real-Life Examples of work Include the Following – 

  • You lift an object from the ground against the force of gravity that pulls the object down. 

  • A person drives his/her car uphill. 

  • An individual pulls down a helium balloon suspended in the air towards the ground. 

Note that all these instances show the presence of an external force that helps an object move in a specific direction. Now if you are wondering how is work and energy related to each other, you should know that it acts as a mechanical manifestation of energy. 

Besides, the calculation of work is an easy process that you should find convenient to grasp. Suppose, you apply a force ‘f’ (in Newton or N) on an object and it has a displacement of  ‘d’ (in meters or m), then work – 

w = Fd

The SI unit of work is joule (or J) which is equal to Newton-meter or N-m. On the other hand, the base unit for work is kg m2 s-2. The CGS unit of work is dyne-centimeter or dyn-cm. You can also express it in its base unit which is g cm2 s-2

Another interesting implication of work that you should note is that even if you apply a force and the displacement is nil, the work becomes null. For example, you exert the maximum force on a wall to displace it. Since the wall does not change position even with the application of force, no work is being done in this situation. 

To understand the differences and relation between work and energy, you will have to take note of the definition of energy. 


What is Energy? 

In Physics, energy deals with the capacity of an object to do work. More precisely, energy refers to the ability of a physical system to undergo work. Unlike work, it exists in several forms. This is a vital pointer which must be noted while trying to comprehend the difference between work and energy. 

These forms mainly include basics such as light, sound, and heat. On the other hand, energy also comprises kinetic, mechanical, potential, and electrical energy. Consider the following examples of energy – 

  • When you place a boulder on a hill, its restive position possesses potential energy. 

  • However, if you roll the boulder down the hill, potential energy converts into kinetic energy. 

  • When someone lights an incandescent bulb, it releases both light and heat energy. 

  • During a thunderstorm, you can see the lightning through light energy and hear it on account of sound energy. 

The SI unit of energy is joule (J), where one joule equals to the work when a force of 1 N shifts a body by 1 meter. Therefore, 1 J = 1 N-m. However, energy is a scalar quantity because both force and displacement are vector quantities. As a result, their product will be scalar. 

Since you know both work and energy definition, you should go over the following differences between them. 


What is the Difference Between Work and Energy? 

Work and energy have the following differences -

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Now that you are aware of the difference between work and energy, do go through similar topics to gain advanced knowledge on this subject. Also, you can download our Vedantu app to access an enhanced learning experience.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Work?

Ans. Work refers to the measurement of energy when an external force displaces an object in a specific direction.

2. What is Energy?

Ans. Energy is the capacity of an object to perform work.

3. What is the SI unit of Work and Energy?

Ans. The SI unit of both work and energy is joule (J).