are the differences in use between when and while and when can we
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:
The prisoners escaped when / while the prison warders
were eating their lunch.
When / While the prison warders were eating their
lunch, the prisoners escaped.
Note that we can also use as and whilst in the same way, although
they sometimes sounds more formal or literary
As the sun went down, I sipped a rum and coke
on the balcony.
I sipped a rum and coke on the balcony whilst the
sun went slowly down on the horizon.
Note that during, which also introduces a longer period
of time, is a preposition which is use with a noun or noun
I first met my future wife during my stay in Casablanca.
I first met my future wife while I was staying in
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 monopoly when the lights went off.
We also use when, not while, to talk about one event that
happens immediately after another and to talk about periods of time
in the past.
When the lights went out, everybody groaned:
"Oh no, not another power cut!"
When I was a little boy, power cuts were very frequent,
but that was just after the war.
When can also be used instead of whenever, meaning
I always visit my mother-in-law when I'm in Manchester.
I always visit my mother-in-law whenever I'm in Manchester.
We often 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 Jenny 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.
Note also that it is often possible to omit subject + be
in when- and while-clauses if the main and subordinate
clauses refer to the same subject:
When (you are) crossing the road, be
careful to look right, left and right again.
They came across human remains while (they were) excavating
to contrast ideas
While is not used only used to introduce adverbial clauses
of time. In more formal usage, it is used to link or balance ideas
that contrast each other:
While I am happy for us all 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
Note in this usage the while-clause is normally placed as the first
of the contrasting points.
meanwhile = during this time
Meanwhile, meaning during this time, is a linking adverb
which connects and contrasts ideas between two sentences. It indicates
that one event is going on at the same time as another:
Slice and brush the aubergines with oil and bake in the oven
till soft. Meanwhile, melt some butter in a small pan
Why don't you prepare the boats ready for the water?Meanwhile,
I'll check to see that we've got enough oars.
a while = a short time
Note that when while functions as a noun, it is nearly
always used with an indefinite article:
I haven't seen you around for a while. Where have
Let's just wait a little while longer. He's bound
to turn up eventually.
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