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If you pick a book off the floor and put it on a table, for example, you're doing positive work on the book, because you supplied an upward force and the book went up. If you pick the book up and place it gently back on the floor again, though, you're doing negative work, because the book is going down but you're exerting an upward force, acting against gravity. If you move the book at constant speed horizontally, you don't do any work on it, despite the fact that you have to exert an upward force to counter-act gravity.
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