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Past Continuous Tense #4, by Dennis Oliver

 

Using The Past Continuous Tense:
More on When and While

 

Understanding how to use when and while becomes more
complicated when you realize that native speakers often
use when for while, but they don't use while for when:

OK:

When / While I was driving home, I ran out of gas.

I ran out of gas when / while I was driving home.

Not OK:

*While I ran out of gas, I was driving home.

*I was driving home while I ran out of gas.

_______________________


OK:

When / While Jim was working in Chicago,
he bought his first car.

Jim bought his first car when / while he was
working in Chicago.

Not OK:

*While Jim bought his first car, he was working
in Chicago.

*Jim was working in Chicago while he bought
his first car.

_______________________


Not OK:

*While Julia fell down, she hurt her ankle.

*Julia hurt her ankle while she fell down.


Not OK:

*While Diego lost the race, he almost cried. /
*Diego almost cried while he lost the race.

_______________________


OK:

When / While the chairman was speaking,
everyone was listening intently.

Everyone was listening intently when / while
the chairman was speaking.

OK:

While / When Jane was driving to work,
she was planning her day.

Jane was planning her day while / when
she was driving to work.

______________________________________________


Special Note:

Notice that when and while are not always interchangeable:

OK:

When Julia fell down, Fred helped her get up.

Fred helped Julia get up when she fell down.

Not OK:

*When Fred helped Julia get up, she fell down.

*Julia fell down when Fred helped her get up.


OK:

When Diego lost the race, he almost cried.

Diego almost cried when he lost the race.

Not OK:

*When Diego almost cried, he lost the race.

*Diego lost the race when he almost cried.


OK:

While the chairman was speaking, everyone was
listening intently.

Everyone was listening intently while the chairman
was speaking.

Not OK:

*While everyone was listening intently, the chairman
was speaking.

*The chairman was speaking while everyone was
listening intently.

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