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  1. Roselin's Avatar
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    #1

    when/ while

    The phone rang WHILE I was eating brunch.

    Can't I say the phone rang WHEN I was eating brunch ?

  2. lucalita009's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: when/ while

    I was eating brunch when the phone rang.

    I think so.


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    #3

    Re: when/ while

    This is interesting.

  3. Roselin's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: when/ while

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    This is interesting.

    David , you didn't correct us .

  4. Raymott's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: when/ while

    Quote Originally Posted by Roselin View Post
    The phone rang WHILE I was eating brunch.

    Can't I say the phone rang WHEN I was eating brunch ?
    Yes you can, but "while" is better. "While" has a specific connotation of duration which "when" does not have. The phone rang sometime during the time period in which you were eating brunch.


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    #6

    Re: when/ while

    Sorry. I had to dash off into town, but wanted to let you know I was following your post.

    The phone rang WHILE I was eating brunch.

    Can't I say the phone rang WHEN I was eating brunch ?


    To say ‘yes’ then raises the question, “So what’s the difference – how do I decide which to use?”

    The dictionary isn’t much help: look at these definitions -

    When : at or during the time that

    While : during the time that

    Both seem to be referring to a ‘duration of time’; so let’s clarify this point first of all. Take these sentences:

    1. Somebody broke into the house while they were playing cards.
    Graphically, this can be represented as:
    |<……..were playing cards………….>|finished playing|…….life goes on…….
    ..........................|
    ...........…………..(he broke in)

    There was a period of time during which they were playing cards. At some point within that time period, the break-in occurred. ‘Officer, the jewellery was on my dressing table when I went downstairs to play cards, so the break-in must have occurred while(=during the period of time we were busy playing cards.’

    1. Somebody broke into the house when they were playing cards.
    The use of ‘when’ implies that the speaker is less concerned with the idea that the break-in occurred during this particular period of time. It is like comparing two facts: ‘At the time of the break-in, they were playing cards.’ At the same time this happened, that happened.

    Your sentence has ‘were playing’, which is Past Continuous, and this refers to an action occurring over a period of time. The idea of ‘while’ specifically referring to ‘a duration of time’ can be seen more clearly if we use a sentence with two verbs in Past Continuous:

    He was watching TV while his wife was cooking tea.

    Here, we cannot substitute ‘when’
    compare

    She was cooking tea, when suddenly the oil in frying pan burst into flames.
    Can you see that ‘when’ is now appropriate because we are referring to a single moment, the moment at which it ‘burst into flames’.

    Take these two sentences:
    1. While you are in London, could you pick up a map of the Underground for me?
    and
    2. When you are in London, could you pick up a map of the Underground for me?

    In (1),’while’ could mean the person is actually in London right now; but if not, is intending to go to London.
    In (2), ‘when’ can only mean that the person is intending to go.
    Further, the sense of (1) is of ‘ during the time that you are in London, I hope at some point you can pick up a map of the Underground for me’
    (2) has the sense, ‘In London, maps of the Underground are readily available. Could you obtain one for me?’

    "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."
    "While you are in Rome, you must visit the Spanish Steps."


    So – for your sentences:
    1. The phone rang WHILE I was eating brunch.
    2. The phone rang WHEN I was eating brunch.

    In (1), ‘while’ indicates that the phone rang at some point during the time in which I was engaged in eating.
    (2) has the sense of ‘the phone rang when ….(no, not hoovering, or doing the washing)… eating brunch.

    I hope this helps and doesn’t just confuse you. Any uncertainties, just post away!
    Last edited by David L.; 19-Oct-2008 at 12:00.

  5. Roselin's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: when/ while

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    Sorry. I had to dash off into town, but wanted to let you know I was following your post. Will get stuck into it a little later this morning.
    It's ok , David. Thanks for your message!

  6. engee30's Avatar
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    #8

    Cool Re: when/ while

    Quote Originally Posted by Roselin View Post
    The phone rang WHILE I was eating brunch.

    Can't I say the phone rang WHEN I was eating brunch ?
    Yes, you can substitute while for when in your sentence. You can't, however, do the same in the example sentence by lucalita009:

    I was eating brunch when the phone rang.


  7. Roselin's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: when/ while

    Quote Originally Posted by engee30 View Post
    Yes, you can substitute while for when in your sentence. You can't, however, do the same in the example sentence by lucalita009:

    I was eating brunch when the phone rang.

    Understood!...Thanks for your reply : )

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