+0
Someone help me

What is the difference between when and while?
1 2 3 4 5
Comments  
AnonymousSomeone help me

What is the difference between when and while?

Very little difference. I do make a distinction for students who are learning English, but this is only for past tenses. I encourage the use of 'when' with the simple past and "while" with the progressive.

When the doorbell rang, I jumped. While I was talking on the phone, the doorbell rang. While it was raining I was running through the park.

PhilipVery little difference. I do make a distinction for students who are learning English, but this is only for past tenses. I encourage the use of 'when' with the simple past and "while" with the progressive.

When the doorbell rang, I jumped. While I was talking on the phone, the doorbell rang. While it was raining I was running through the park.

I doubt whether it is useful not to show them the whole picture.

Christopher read a book while I watched television. (Murphy)

The telephone always rings when you are having a bath. (Swan)
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Hi guys,

I usually discuss simple examples like these with my class.

When the phone rang, I was taking a shower.

While the phone rang, I was taking a shower.

While I was taking a shower, the phone rang.

Best wishes, Clive
The first two examples alone are complicated, the whilechanging the phone ringing (in the first sentence) from an event to an activity (in the second). These are simple? Emotion: smile I think I'd leave out the second sentence for the first go-around on the subject.

CJ
Hi CJ,

I usually discuss simple examples like these with my class.

When the phone rang, I was taking a shower.

While the phone rang, I was taking a shower.

[You said]

The first two examples alone are complicated, the while changing the phone ringing (in the first sentence) from an event to an activity (in the second). These are simple?

_______________________

That's precisely the point I try to make in class by contrasting these two examples. I want to make my students aware that, unlike 'when', 'while' focuses on activity, on duration. Thus,'while the phone rang' suggests the phone kept ringing for a long time.

They usually seem to understand these short, concrete examples pretty quickly and easily. That's why I referred to them as 'simple examples'.

Best wishes, Clive
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
CliveHi guys,

I usually discuss simple examples like these with my class.

When the phone rang, I was taking a shower.

While the phone rang, I was taking a shower.

While I was taking a shower, the phone rang.

Best wishes, Clive

Good examples.

When the phone rang, I was taking a shower.

Say the phone rang at 2 pm and I was having a shower from 1.50 to 2.10 pm. When the phone rang, I was having a shower. The ringing is considered as a point in time.

While the phone rang, I was taking a shower.

The ringing accompanied me while I was taking a shower. Emotion: smile

While I was taking a shower, the phone rang.

Like the first one with different emphasis.

I think you have forgotten

When I was taking a shower, the phone rang.

like the 3rd one.

now the picture is complete.
Hi,

I think you have forgotten

When I was taking a shower, the phone rang.

like the 3rd one.

now the picture is complete.

I didn't forget. It's just that I usually deal with this version in a later lesson, because my first focus is to help students get a basic understanding that there is often a difference between 'when and 'while'. This version makes that difference less clear, and thus I find it requires more discussion. Emotion: smile

Best wishes, Clive
Hi, Clive,

What's your explanation for the use of while, not when, in the following:

Make hay while the sun shines.
Something very amusing happened while you were out.


(This is not a "challenge" question. I am actually trying to figure out what explanation I would give, and I'm kind of stumped. Just mentioning duration doesn't seem entirely satisfactory to me, because we also say things like When I was young, I was very thin and When you are older, you'll understand, and both the stages in life when one is young or old extend over a duration of time-- yet, here we use when, not while.)

CJ
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Show more