If you’re creating a resume or talking to someone about your work experience, either in an interview or informally, you will probably use the phrases “experience in” or “experience with.”
But which one of those prepositions should you use when?
The good news is that in most cases, you aren’t going to cause any great confusion if you get these wrong. You will be understood.
At worst, you may come across as someone who is not a native speaker of English or, if you are a native speaker, someone who is a little careless about details in your writing.
This is one of those differences that most native speakers cannot explicate the reasoning behind, instead simply going with what “sounds right.”
In many cases, your error might not be noticed at all.
All the same, it’s good to get these right, so keep reading for how you can tell the difference and when it matters.
Is it “experience in” or “experience with”?
“Experience in” is used when you are talking about an industry or field of study and implies formal learning or training. “Experience with” is used to talk about a subject more generally, to indicate expertise with a specific tool or to show familiarity with something you may not do professionally.
When do you use “experience in”?
In general, you would use “experience in” when talking about a topic or field of knowledge.
For example, if you need to list contract work on a resume as a software developer, you might write this as a bullet point:
- Experience in software development
You would use this for any other type of industry or field of study as well:
- I have five years of experience in accounting.
- Jesse has a lot of experience in graphic design.
- We are looking for someone who has experience in retail.
When do you use “experience with”?
“Experience with” is more commonly used when you are talking about a general subject or a tool.
Let’s say you don’t have any formal work experience in computers, but you did do some volunteer work in which you learned some skills. You could make volunteering look good on a resume by being specific about the computer tools you mastered in that position:
I have experience with HMTL, Java and WordPress.
You would also use “experience with” to talk about other tools as well:
- She has experience with various types of accounting software.
- We are looking for someone who has experience with tractors.
In the context of doing some kind of work, including volunteer work, you would use “experience with” to talk about people or animals:
- She has experience with young children.
- He has experience with recently returned veterans.
- They need someone who has experience with feral cats.
“Experience with” can also mean “encounter with”:
- It was my first experience with living away from home.
- I had a bad experience with that person and never spoke to them again.
Context and comparing “experience with” to “experience in”
For clarity, let’s take a closer look at these two phrases. In some situations, the overall context in which someone is speaking or writing is important.
General knowledge versus specific experience using “experience with” and “experience in”
“With” can imply that you have experience working with other people within a certain industry or field or that you have knowledge in a field without being part of that industry or field yourself:
I have some experience with horror films.
If someone said this to you, you would assume that they had some knowledge of horror films but not that they had worked in that particular field.
They might even just mean that they’ve seen some horror movies:
I have some experience with horror films, and I know I don’t like them.
If instead they said, “I have some experience in horror films,” you would assume that they had worked professionally within the film industry on horror films, as an actor, director, producer or some other capacity in making movies.
Note that this correlates to the point up above about “in” being used with a particular industry and “with” being used for more general subjects.
“Horror movies” could either refer to the industry itself or to horror movies as a subject, an area of knowledge.
You can see, then, that when “in” is used, it is about the industry while “with” makes it a more general kind of knowledge.
“Experience with” or “experience in”: when the meaning is similar
There are times when the two phrases are almost interchangeable.
Maybe the person speaking is a film critic or scholar who writes a lot about horror films. Which would they say?
I have experience in horror films.
I have experience with horror films.
Knowing the context of the person’s profession, if they used “in,” you would not be confused into thinking that they worked within film itself.
You would know that they meant that this was one of their specialty areas of study, and since it is a professional expertise, “in” is probably the best choice.
However, this is a case where “with” might be used without too much confusion, particularly in a casual context.
“Experience in” or “experience with” to show type of experience
On the other hand, there are sentences in which “in” and “with” can make a difference:
- I have experience in the French workplace.
- I have experience with the French workplace.
The first sentence suggests that the person has actually worked at a job in France. They might use this sentence to promote their language abilities on a cover letter.
The second sentence suggests that the person has worked with companies in France in some capacity.
Perhaps they are based in an office in New York, but their office often liaisons with a branch of the company in Paris.
While these are clear differences, it would not be unusual for someone to say “in” when they meant “with” and vice versa. When in doubt, ask more questions to clarify!
How do you use “experience of” in a sentence?
“Experience of” is less common than “experience in” or “experience with,” but you may see it on occasion, so you should understand what it means if you do.
While the two above phrases are often used in the context of talking about your background for a job, “experience of” suggests something of a more personal nature that you have lived through.
Here are a few ways it might be used:
- He is a good advocate for homeless people because he has experience of homelessness himself.
- I’ve had some experience of grief.
You could also use “with” in the above examples, but the meaning would be more ambiguous.
Using “with,” it would be less clear whether the experience was a personal one or the people had simply worked closely with others who had those experiences.
You may also hear it as part of the standard phrase “the experience of a lifetime,” which is often used to refer to an exciting experience, such as a round-the-world cruise or a trip to the Olympics, that a person might do just once in their life.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.