# Thread: Past continuous (when vs. while)

1. Newbie
Join Date
Jan 2013
Posts
5

## 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. ## Re: Past continuous (when vs. while)

Originally Posted by slavaj
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")

3. Newbie
Join Date
Jan 2013
Posts
5

## 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. ## Re: Past continuous (when vs. while)

Originally Posted by slavaj
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 10:52. Reason: missing word added

5. Moderator
Join Date
Jun 2010
Posts
31,871

## Re: Past continuous (when vs. while)

When in doubt, use when.

You will nearly always be right.

Rover

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