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  1. Newbie
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    #1

    Past continuous (when vs. while)

    Hello. While I was reading a book I saw these sentences:
    1) While we were waiting, it started to rain
    2) I cut my finger when I was peeling the potatoes
    3) While Dick was preparing lunch, he cut his finger
    The question is when should I use while and when should I use when.

  2. Raymott's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Past continuous (when vs. while)

    Quote Originally Posted by slavaj View Post
    Hello. While I was reading a book I saw these sentences:
    1) While we were waiting, it started to rain
    2) I cut my finger when I was peeling the potatoes
    3) While Dick was preparing lunch, he cut his finger
    The question is when should I use while and when should I use when.
    "When" will generally mean "while" when there is a continuous action happening, as in all your examples (waiting, peeling, preparing). So you can use either for all those sentences.
    When the action is a single action (in the simple past) you can't use "while" because there's no duration. "When he got out of the bath, he slipped over" (not "while")

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    #3

    Re: Past continuous (when vs. while)

    Thank you but I mean when should I use while and when should I use when in the past continuous. For example in the second sentence we have when (when I was peeling the potatoes) but in the third sentence we have while ( while dick was preparing lunch ) So, my question is what's the difference?

  4. Raymott's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Past continuous (when vs. while)

    Quote Originally Posted by slavaj View Post
    Thank you but I mean when should I use while and when should I use when in the past continuous. For example in the second sentence we have when (when I was peeling the potatoes) but in the third sentence we have while ( while dick was preparing lunch ) So, my question is what's the difference?
    As I said, you can use either.
    If both clauses are continuous ("While I was sleeping, Mary was reading"), use "while".
    If you're still not sure, you could give more examples, but I think that covers it.
    Last edited by Raymott; 07-Jan-2013 at 09:52. Reason: missing word added

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    #5

    Re: Past continuous (when vs. while)

    When in doubt, use when.

    You will nearly always be right.

    Rover

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