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Someone help me

What is the difference between when and while?
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Emotion: cryingEmotion: crying (of course, ringingoff ...)

Thank you, Clive. Emotion: embarrassedEmotion: embarrassed
it is hard to explain what is meant by "While the phone rang, I took a shower." Maybe this is not a good example to explain this. Under normal conditions, we do not need to explain that we were taking a shower while the phone was ringing, do we? Or the question is: does "while the phone was ringing" express a point in time, rather than a period, like "when the phone rang"? because it is pointless to say I was taking a shower and at the same time the phone was ringing unless humour is meant.
Yes, sometimes for the sake of illustrating the grammar we tend to neglect the practical meanings, and we end up with pretty strange sentences!

If something like I took a shower while the phone rang doesn't really appeal to you (understandable!), then how about this: Nero fiddled while Rome burned. It's essentially the same structure -- two activities going on at the same time1 -- and both expressed with the simple past.

More specifically,
does "while the phone was ringing" express a point in time, rather than a period, like "when the phone rang"?
No. I don't know of any case where a past progressive (was ringing) could possibly express a point in time. The simple past, on the other hand, can express either a point (its usual role) or a period (as in the example of Nero and Rome, above). The use of a preposed while, by the way, forces a reading of the simple past as a period. Hence, while the phone rang is like while the phone just kept ringing away unanswered (c.f., while Rome burned), but when the phone rang is (usually) like when a single ringing sound suddenly 'burst out of' the phone. Emotion: smile

CJ

1Or if you're sqeamish about Rome burnedas an activity, then an activity and a happening going on at the same time. Emotion: smile
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Hi,
would you notice any difference between these? I'd say they are practically the same...

Nero fiddled while Rome burned.
Nero fiddled while Rome was burning.


On the other hand, these two are not the same to me:

Nero had a heart attack while we watched the news.<-- this is weird, sounds like while you are whatching the news, Nero is on the floor shouting "Aaaargh, my damn heart!!!", but you keep watching anyway, and he keeps heart-attacking, LOL.
Nero had a heart attack while we were watching the news.<--- this is ok

It seems to me that much depends on the verbs used and the context. And something is idiomatic too, isn't it? Like "Wait here while I go to Steve's and buy some beer, ok?" instead of "Wait here while I'm going to Steve's and buy some beer, ok?"
Emotion: smile
CalifJimIf something like I took a shower while the phone rang doesn't really appeal to you (understandable!), then how about this: Nero fiddled while Rome burned. It's essentially the same structure -- two activities going on at the same time1 -- and both expressed with the simple past.
I liked that example. It has a meaning which can be conveyed. We see both fiddling and burning as points of time in the past. It seems perfectly fine to me. So I think structural appropriateness is not enough on its own. Semantical appropriatness should also be sought.
practically the same...
Nero fiddled while Rome burned.
Nero fiddled while Rome was burning.
Yup. I agree.
not the same to me:
Nero had a heart attack while we watched the news. ...
Nero had a heart attack while we were watching the news.
Yup. I agree. The period reading of watched is forced by while, so, for some unknown reason, we accept the period reading for the main clause as well. But in the second case, the progressive tense seems to take the major responsibility for providing the idea of a period of time, not the word while, so the period reading doesn't bleed over into the main clause as readily. Another puzzle. (Well, I'm beginning to think it's all puzzles, really.)

"Wait here while I go to Steve's and buy some beer, ok?" instead of "Wait here while I'm going to Steve's and buy[ing?] some beer, ok?"
We fall back all too often on a stock explanation like "It's idiomatic" when we just haven't thought deeply enough about why these choices are made. (It's the grammarians' standard deus ex machina.) I do that all the time.

In this case, though, I suspect there's a better explanation. If only I knew what it was. Emotion: smile

CJ
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KooyeenHi,
would you notice any difference between these? I'd say they are practically the same...

Nero fiddled while Rome burned.
Nero fiddled while Rome was burning
.
The second one (burned) is seen as a period in time, and the first one (was burning) a point in time. Or I think we can say in the second one the emphasis is more on the "period".
On the other hand, these two are not the same to me:

Nero had a heart attack while we watched the news.<-- this is weird, sounds like while you are whatching the news, Nero is on the floor shouting "Aaaargh, my damn heart!!!", but you keep watching anyway, and he keeps heart-attacking, LOL.
but at the same it could mean you were at different places while it happened but somehow they coincided.

Nero had a heart attack while we were watching the news.<--- this is ok
This stresses the TV watching event.
We see both fiddling and burning as points of time in the past.
One thing I would change about your most recent post is this.

We see both fiddling and burning as activities which were taking place during periods of time in the past.

(Fiddling and burning take too long to be pointsin time. Emotion: smile)

CJ
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The second one (burned) is seen as a period in time, and the first one (was burning) a point in time. Or I think we can say in the second one the emphasis is more on the "period".
Both are periods, not points, in the context of those two sentences.

it could mean you were at different places while it happened but somehow they coincided.
True. Good observation. In that case Kooyeen's macabre scenario doesn't play out quite as he described it!

CJ
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