can be used in a number of different ways. We use it, first and
foremost, when we want to talk about things that happen simultaneously.
In this sense, it is similar to ‘as’ and ‘when’. All of these conjunctions
can serve to introduce a longer background situation which started
before the shorter action. Consider the following and, at the same
time, note the use that is made of the past continuous in these
'I completed the crossword as I was talking on the phone.'
'I remembered that I had a letter to post when I was
walking past the post box.'
'While I was reading the newspaper, my wife was ironing
As you can see from the above examples, while is particularly
useful if we are discussing long actions and wish to draw attention
to the duration of the activities. Consider the following:
'I’ll prepare breakfast while you’re having a shower.'
'While I was recovering in hospital, my wife was enjoying
a holiday in Cyprus.'
if the subject is the same in both clauses, a participial construction
may be used, particularly in written English. Compare the following:
'She completed her first novel while working for the
'She completed her first novel while she was working
for the local newspaper.'
/ whereas to link two ideas that contrast with each other:
Note that while does not always refer to time. It is also
used to balance two ideas that contrast with, but do not contradict,
each other. In this sense, it is similar to whereas. Consider
'While I like all types of fish, my girlfriend always chooses
meat dishes when we go out to eat.'
'Some married couples argue all time, whereas others never
'We would always choose somewhere in the mountains for a holiday,
while our children always want the seaside.'
that whilst we would use while or whereas within sentences
to contrast two ideas, across sentences we would need to use ‘however’
or ‘on the other hand’. Compare the following:
'In the UK the hottest month of the year is usually July, whereas
in southern Europe the hottest period is usually in August.'
'In the UK the hottest month of the year is usually July. On
the other hand, in southern Europe the hottest period is usually
'Britain secured only one gold medal in Atlanta four years ago,
while at Sydney 2000 we ended up with eleven.'
'Britain secured only one gold medal in Atlanta four years ago.
At Sydney 2000, however, we ended up with eleven.