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    #1

    When she was asleep

    Hi,

    http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/while_1

    While: during the time that something is happening:

    - While she was asleep, thieves broke in and stole her handbag.

    I would like to ask if we can use 'when' instead 'while' in the above sentence for the same meaning as the while or not.

    - When she was asleep, thieves broke in and stole her handbag.

    Does the above sentence mean that 'after she was asleep, thieves broke in and stole her handbag' or that during her sleep, thieves broke in and stole her handbag'?

    Thank you.

  1. Matthew Wai's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: When she was asleep

    I think 'When she was asleep' is also correct and it means 'When she was sleeping'.
    I am not a teacher.

  2. Piscean's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: When she was asleep

    Quote Originally Posted by ademoglu View Post
    - While she was asleep, thieves broke in and stole her handbag.


    - When she was asleep, thieves broke in and stole her handbag.
    The first means only during the time that she was asleep.

    The second can mean that, but it can also mean after she went to sleep, possibly implying that the thieves waited for her to go to sleep. Context will usually make the meaning clear. If it doesn't, it's not particularly important.

  3. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: When she was asleep

    I don't see any significant difference.

  4. Raymott's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: When she was asleep

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    I don't see any significant difference.
    I'd suggest that that is because you are not looking beyond a context in which they mean the same thing. But we can't assume that, as Piscean has pointed out.
    There's no difference between A and B as long as you confine yourself to a context in which A means B and B means A.

  5. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: When she was asleep

    I tend to read what is there, not what might be there.

  6. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: When she was asleep

    It's a shame that frequently English sentences can have much more than one meaning!
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  7. Raymott's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: When she was asleep

    "I tend to read what is there, not what might be there."
    I'll let the records be the judge of that. But I don't think that's to the point in this case. Most of the teachers here (and many learners) here have a respect for context. And there are certainly contextual influences on whether [most] natives use 'when' and 'while'.

  8. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: When she was asleep

    For me, "while" and "when" both refer to a period when she was sleeping. If there is a difference, there is no evidence in the sentence to support it. Some people here tend to invent context and/or nuance that isn't there.

  9. Piscean's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: When she was asleep

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    For me, "while" and "when" both refer to a period when she was sleeping. If there is a difference, there is no evidence in the sentence to support it. Some people here tend to invent context and/or nuance that isn't there.

    I didn't invent this definition, 'as soon as another action or event has finished', one of several in the Macmillan Online dictionary entry for 'when'.

    Without more context, that meaning is possible for the sentence we are discussing. The 'during the time that' meaning is also possible. It is impossible to be sure without more context. I am afraid that some people tend to ignore the possibility of context being relevant.

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