When/While/As?

•  0
•  7,506
1- When she arrived home, I was watching TV.

2- While/As I was watching TV, she arrived home.

I know 1 and 2 are correct. But what about these?

3- When I was watching TV, the electricity went off.

4- While the electricity went off, I was studying Organic Chemistry.

5- As the electricity went off, I was setting the table.

6- While I studied the huge ears of the fox, the police officer, a gentle man devoted to putting an end to the poaching in the area, explained that he'd found the fox dead on the road that morning. (here this is from New York Times)

7- 'When I was studying American history in grammar school (this is also from NYT)

Are they correct?
1 2 3 4 5
[1] "While" is a clause initiator to indicate PERIOD. So a while-clause should state some durative event. "When" can be to indicate both PERIOD and POINT. "As" is to indicate what is PARALLEL or REASON.
[2] We say commonly "An event (either punctual or durative) happens during PERIOD in which a durative event continues". That is like saying "put a POINT on a LINE". On the other hand, "an durative event continues at POINT on which a punctual event happens" or "draw a LINE on a POINT" is unreasonable to human brains.
--------------
3- When I was watching TV, the electricity went off.
This is fine. This is saying "a POINT (went off) on a LINE (was studying)"
4- While the electricity went off, I was studying Organic Chemistry.
This is wrong. It says like "a LINE (was studying) on a POINT (went off)"
5- As the electricity went off, I was setting the table.
This is also wrong. We cannot draw a LINE (was setting) in PARALLEL to a POINT(went off).
6- While I studied the huge ears of the fox, the police officer, a gentle man devoted to putting an end to the poaching in the area, explained that he'd found the fox dead on the road that morning. (here this is from New York Times)
This is OK. "Study" is a durative (or quasi stative) verb.
7- 'When I was studying American history in grammar school (this is also from NYT)
?? This is merely a fragment of a sentence.

paco
paco, as you see, I try to understand the difference between when/while/as used in conjunction with simple past or past continuous. I wonder why we use "when" instead of "while" in 7. (and yes, it is a fragment. you know one is not entitled to see all the page in NYT without subscribing)What if we used "while"? Is "As" a time clause initiator the same as "while"? I think I need a comprehensive answer. Let me try. For example, we use "while I studied" because while is enough to indicate the continous nature of the action, so we don't need to use the continuous form." But still it needs to be validated. But I really wonder why we use "when I was studying" instead of "while I was studying". What is the difference?
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Regarding "when I was studying" vs. "while I was studying" (in the context shown):

Believe it or not, "when" and "while" actually change the meaning of "studying".
"when ... studying ..." means "during the period of time when I was attending school", "back in the days of going to school".
"while ... studying ..." means "during the period of time when I was physically sitting at a desk or table, looking through books, documents, etc., to learn from them".

Compare:

When I was studying astronomy at the University of Timbuktu, quasars had not yet been discovered.

While I was studying astronomy last night, an eclipse of the moon was going on outside my window.

"while" in the first sentence or "when" in the second would be poorer choices.

CJ
The more eager I am to seek detail, the more complicated things get. At least 4, 6 and 7 seems so strange to me.

1- Legend had it that the idea of a single burial place had come to Ulysses when he was looking at the monuments to Ferdinand and Isabella in Spain.''

2- ''When I was sitting upstairs in the press box, I felt chained to my chair, ... watching games in the press box, and he told ... moved out of the press box

3- One afternoon when I was sitting cross-legged in a boardroom with a group of partners, I swiveled to reach for a document.

4- Then, using a high-pressure hose, she sprayed my legs and backside while I sat in the tub.

5- A plant spokesman said that some gas had accumulated in the ventilation system while the electricity was shut down. ' from NYT

6- It seemed so absurdly cruel and arbitrary of them to do it while I slept.

7- I found a job in a factory sewing Army emblems onto uniforms while I slept on rooftops.

What if we used "while I was sleeping" or "when I was sleeping" in 6 and 7? (By the way, what are those stars? An indication of this thread being below par?)

Hello Diamond

You are correct in that "while" in itself contains the sense of duration. Nevertheless, I believe, "while" can't be followed by a purely punctual dynamic verb. For example, "While I hit the car, I was staring at a pretty girl" sounds weird to me. In the case of a when-clause, the sense of duration is carried only by the durative aspect of the verb used. So when we use a when-clause as a duration time-adverbial, we have to change the verb aspect into progressive, when the verb is a dynamic one.

As for the question in your second message, I guess, your trouble comes from how to parse the aspect of "study". "Study" is actually a bit ambiguous about its aspect. Native speakers use it sometimes as a stative verb and sometimes as a dynamic verb. It seems natural to them to say both "I study law at Princeton" and "I'm studying law at Princeton". So I do not think "while I studied the huge ears" and "when I was studying American history" contradict each other. And I think, we can use "when I studied" in a durative sense. (EX) "When I studied Japanese, I was surprised to know how easy it was to speak and hear".

"Look at" is an almost purely punctual dynamic verb. So we have to use it in progressive form when we use it in a when-clause of durative sense. "Sit" can be both stative (be in a seat) and dynamic (take a seat). I think we can say also "while someone is sitting". (EX) "While I was sitting in the park, it began to get dark." The same discussion could apply to the case of "sleep". (EX) "How could I know what happened while I was sleeping?"

paco
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?

1- ---- I was studying American history in grammar school he and I would study together.

A) When B) While

2- Grasping some willow branches on a little island, Ruth held the canoe in place ---- I studied my topographic map and pondered whether to begin the crossing.

A) When B) While

3- Mildred Cherubin Dear Diary: ---- I was sitting in my ophthalmologist's examining room, my cellphone suddenly rang.

A) When B) While

4- ---- I sat down in a Trump Tower conference room one afternoon earlier this year with Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, he claimed that Donald was worth about \$6 billion.

A) When B) While

5- One Sunday afternoon a month later ---- I was sitting by my window, I noticed a person lowering himself from the roof to the fire escape of the opposite building.

A) When B) While

6- ---- I sat at the edge of the sweltering, itchy playground last summer, parents descended the hill again and again to thank me, to thank Lee, for this chance, for this experience, not only for their children to learn baseball but also for their children to play baseball in a sandlot pickup, walking-distance, motley neighborhood game at least once in their lives.

A) When B) While
1- ---- I was studying American history in grammar school he and I would study together.
I'm sorry but I can't choose. It is because this sentence sounds nonsense to me whichever I choose.
2- Grasping some willow branches on a little island, Ruth held the canoe in place ---- I studied my topographic map and pondered whether to begin the crossing.
I'd rather "while". But I don't think "when" is incorrect.
3- Mildred Cherubin Dear Diary: ---- I was sitting in my ophthalmologist's examining room, my cellphone suddenly rang.
I'll choose "when". But I don't think "while" is incorrect.
4- ---- I sat down in a Trump Tower conference room one afternoon earlier this year with Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, he claimed that Donald was worth about \$6 billion.
"Sit down" is a dynamic verb. So it should be "when".
5- One Sunday afternoon a month later ---- I was sitting by my window, I noticed a person lowering himself from the roof to the fire escape of the opposite building.
I'll choose "when". But I don't think "while" is incorrect.
6- ---- I sat at the edge of the sweltering, itchy playground last summer, parents descended the hill again and again to thank me, to thank Lee, for this chance, for this experience, not only for their children to learn baseball but also for their children to play baseball in a sandlot pickup, walking-distance, motley neighborhood game at least once in their lives.
I think we can choose both. But if we choose "when", the sentence will become a bit too ambiguous to take the sense of "sit at".

paco
1- When I was studying American history in grammar school he and I would study together.

2- Grasping some willow branches on a little island, Ruth held the canoe in place while I studied my topographic map and pondered whether to begin the crossing.

3- Mildred Cherubin Dear Diary: While I was sitting in my ophthalmologist's examining room, my cellphone suddenly rang.

4- When I sat down in a Trump Tower conference room one afternoon earlier this year with Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, he claimed that Donald was worth about \$6 billion.

5- One Sunday afternoon a month later while I was sitting by my window, I noticed a person lowering himself from the roof to the fire escape of the opposite building.

6- While I sat at the edge of the sweltering, itchy playground last summer, parents descended the hill again and again to thank me, to thank Lee, for this chance, for this experience, not only for their children to learn baseball but also for their children to play baseball in a sandlot pickup, walking-distance, motley neighborhood game at least once in their lives.

These are my first choices. As Paco says, other choices can also be correct.

CJ
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies