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Dear teachers,

Please adivise me on the use of "when" and "while". Thanks.

Are the following sentences correct?

I was taking a bath when the earthquake happened.

I took a bath while the earthquake was happening.

I cut my face while I was shaving.

I was shaving when I cut my face.

Furthermore, when do we only put the simple past tense on both the main clause and the subordinate clause (the one with the conjunction in front of it) in a long sentence? For example, does "I always go to see a doctor when I am under the weather." sound OK to you? Can I use "while" to replace "when" in this sentence?

Lastly, can we use a past continuous tense on both the main and subordinate clause with the word "while" as the conjunction? For example, "The guy was renovating my room while I was traveling in Europe".

As far as I know, to use "when" means two events come in one after another , whereas "while" usually indicates two events come at the same time. Correct?

Whew...what else can I think of.....

Lcchang
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Hi,

Are the following sentences correct?

I was taking a bath when the earthquake happened. OK

I took a bath while the earthquake was happening. Sounds odd. It's because an eathquake usually doesn't last long, so I wouldn't use the continuous tense.

I cut my face while I was shaving. OK

I was shaving when I cut my face. OK

Furthermore, when do we only put the simple past tense on both the main clause and the subordinate clause (the one with the conjunction in front of it) in a long sentence? For example, does "I always go to see a doctor when I am under the weather." sound OK to you? Yes, fine. Can I use "while" to replace "when" in this sentence? I wouldn't. 'When' better reflects the 'first this, then this' nature of the events.

Lastly, can we use a past continuous tense on both the main and subordinate clause with the word "while" as the conjunction? For example, "The guy was renovating my room while I was traveling in Europe". Definitely.

As far as I know, to use "when" means two events come in one after another ,Not always. eg When John arrived, we ate lunch. but When I was cooking lunch, John arrived. (not the continuous tense)

whereas "while" usually indicates two events come at the same time. Correct? Yes, for 'long' events.

Best wishes, Clive
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We have made a lot of discussion on the question similar to yours. Please look at them.

when
Difference - while, while on, while upon, during,when
when/while/as
when/while/as
bang goes something

paco
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Comments  
That’s why is harder for Asian learners because of the trickiness of tenses. In time expressed in a given context dictates what tenses to use. Within the tenses, the events that took place require proper conjunctions and adverbs to depict a clear picture. As for your questions, I hope my explanation didn’t confuse you. Emotion: big smile

I was taking a bath when the earthquake happened. – “when” is the correct choice with this context. This means at some point during the bath, the earthquake occurred.

I took a bath while the earthquake was happening. – This one sounds weird. If the length of time of earthquake was 15 seconds, you took a bath within that time window. That’s what the context appeared to be.

I cut my face while / when I was shaving. – Either “while” or “when” is ok for this context. “While” is more conforming though. The first example emphasized on the result followed by the act that caused it.

I was shaving when I cut my face. – This context sounds a bit odd to me. Though, it still understood. But it can only accept “when” and it emphasized on the act first followed by the result.

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