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Why is there a 上 in this sentence? How does it change the meaning? Ie, what's the difference between 工作的东西 and 工作上的东西? When should 工作上 be used as opposed to 工作?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

here means about(相关).

Try to understand it like this: 那个是我工作相关的东西

If you omit , it'd be understand as the item used for work rather than about.

那个是我工作的东西 sounds a bit like 那个是我工作用的东西.

Anyway, both are rarely spoken for native Mandarin speakers. You'd better provide more context.

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That sounds right. Someone I know accidentally sent me an email and I asked what it was about. – thedoctar Mar 8 '14 at 11:12
I agree, not used so often, since someone who knows you typically knows what you do and you don't need to explain your work to them. – j5shi Mar 8 '14 at 11:32
Sometimes this happens. For example, you are a professional engineer at NASA, your family would surely ask you a lot when they see your equipments. In this case you may answer 那个是我工作用的东西 or 那个是我上班用的东西 rather than 那个是我工作上的东西 – Aw Qirui Guo Mar 9 '14 at 1:06
I am not sure what you meant by 'both are rarely spoken'? Why would they be rarely spoken? – deutschZuid Mar 12 '14 at 22:14

Actually, there's not so much difference. 工作上的东西,工作的东西both mean something related to your work.

And actually doesn't mean too much , Chinese language is not that strict as English, you don't have to understand every word.

More examples about

-孩子,你在看什么?(Son, what' are you viewing?)
-妈妈,我在看学习上的书(Mom, I am just viewing some academical books)

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Chinese language is not that strict as English - I agree. But I don't think Chinese people will ever say something like 我在看学习上的书. That is too weird. – Aw Qirui Guo Mar 13 '14 at 3:54
@AwQiruiGuo Well, sometimes I said it. Yes, we often said 学习方面的书. – Ave Maleficum Mar 13 '14 at 3:57
I'm just curious are you native? (please don't take it personally) I think in this particular case, a child would be more likely to say 妈妈,我在看书 or 妈妈,我在学习. Personally when using , I often use it with 事情 following, for example: 这些都是工作上的事情. – Aw Qirui Guo Mar 13 '14 at 4:04

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