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  1. terrenziqq's Avatar
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    #1

    Question In what way do "while" and "when" differ from each other?

    Hi, I'm indeed an English teacher teaching simple English from Taiwan. Recently, two common conjunctions have been confusing me a lot. When I was a student, I was taught by many teachers that "when" connects sentences in two ways. One is that it connects two simple tense ones (They must at the same time be either present or past tense), and the other way is that it connects one continuous one and a simple one (They must at the same time be either present or past tense). When "when" is compared to "while", teachers all emphasized that while always connects two continuous ones (Of course they must at the same time be either past or present tense. ) Till now when I begin to teach children, I suddenly find out that there're different answers to questions about "while". Some workbooks say it connects sentences in the way as the same as what I was taught. Some workbooks say it may connect two continuous ones and sometimes connect one simple tense and one continuous tense sentence. I even see such sentences (using "while" to connect a simple tense and a continuous tense) in English-teaching magazines edited by Americans or on web sites set up by natives speakers. So, should I say "while" in some situation is equal to "when"? I don't know how to explain the difference between "while" and "when" now. Could anyone help me?

  2. mara_ce's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: In what way do "while" and "when" differ from each other?

    Hi!
    I've seen "when and while" in different situations, for example past continuous and past simple.

    While I was having a shower, the telephone rang.
    I was having a shower when the telephone rang.

    As you can see while is followed + past continuous and when + past simple.

    I hope that helps.

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    #3

    Exclamation Re: In what way do "while" and "when" differ from each other?

    Quote Originally Posted by terrenziqq View Post
    Hi, I'm indeed an English teacher teaching simple English from Taiwan. Recently, two common conjunctions have been confusing me a lot. When I was a student, I was taught by many teachers that "when" connects sentences in two ways. One is that it connects two simple tense ones (They must at the same time be either present or past tense), and the other way is that it connects one continuous one and a simple one (They must at the same time be either present or past tense). When "when" is compared to "while", teachers all emphasized that while always connects two continuous ones (Of course they must at the same time be either past or present tense. ) Till now when I begin to teach children, I suddenly find out that there're different answers to questions about "while". Some workbooks say it connects sentences in the way as the same as what I was taught. Some workbooks say it may connect two continuous ones and sometimes connect one simple tense and one continuous tense sentence. I even see such sentences (using "while" to connect a simple tense and a continuous tense) in English-teaching magazines edited by Americans or on web sites set up by natives speakers. So, should I say "while" in some situation is equal to "when"? I don't know how to explain the difference between "while" and "when" now. Could anyone help me?


    We use both when and while as subordinating conjunctions to introduce adverbial clauses of time. They mean during the time that and indicate that something is or was happening when something else occurred. When the adverbial cause in not a longer action or event that is described in the main clause, they can be interchangeable, as:
    • The prisoners escaped when / while the prison warders were eating their lunch.
    • When / While the prison warders were eating their lunch, the prisoners escaped.
    1) when not while


    We use when, not while, to talk about something that occurs at the same time as a longer action or event that is described in the main clause:
    • I was asleep in my chair when Dora rang to say she wasn't coming home.
    • We were playing cards when the lights went off.
    2) while not when


    We prefer while to when to describe the longer action of two events or to talk about two longer actions that go on simultaneously:
    • Dora left a message on the voice mail while I was asleep in the chair.
    • While I was writing my Christmas cards, the children were decorating the tree.
    • I cooked the supper while my wife did the ironing.
    Note from the above examples that while a progressive tense is normally used to describe the longer action associated with a while time clause, simple tenses are also possible.
    3) while to contrast ideas



    While is not used only to introduce adverbial clauses of time, but in more formal usage, it is used to link or balance ideas that contrast each other, this is specific use of ‘while’:
    • While I am happy to eat at home, I don't want to spend hours in the kitchen preparing the food.
    • While the news from the front has so far been good, there will almost certainly be days when we must expect heavy casualties.
    Last edited by sarat_106; 24-Jun-2009 at 15:24.

  3. Raymott's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: In what way do "while" and "when" differ from each other?

    Quote Originally Posted by mara_ce View Post
    Hi!
    I've seen "when and while" in different situations, for example past continuous and past simple.

    While I was having a shower, the telephone rang.
    I was having a shower when the telephone rang.

    As you can see while is followed + past continuous and when + past simple.

    I hope that helps.
    While Peter filled out his tax return, Mary looked after the baby.
    While I'm in the bath, will you finish your homework?
    When I was living in London, I used to like visiting museums.
    When I'm feeling happy, almost anything seems possible.

    As you can see from these sentences, while can be followed by the simple tenses, and when can be followed by the continuous tenses.
    The tenses used are not the determinant of whether to use while or when.

  4. terrenziqq's Avatar
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    #5

    Smile Re: In what way do "while" and "when" differ from each other?

    Thank you all for the useful information.

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