When and While Grammar Rules- How Much Do You Know



You should have now come across the two most common words (while and when) in the English language.

Is there a difference in USAGE between the uses of these two words while and when?  I was asked this question by one of my students.

So I decided to create one post highlighting how to use when and while.

You will find on many occasions the use of these two words is different. I will try to put forward the difference of how to use these two words in this post.

How to Use While

You should use while for two actions which were happening at the same time in the past. The actions were continuing for some time.

Have a close look at the use of while in the following sentences-

  • He was reading while his younger brother was playing.
  • The mother was cooking while her daughters were playing.
  • I was studying while my brother was practicing piano.

How to Use When

You will use when an action has been going on in the past and then an event happened that caused stoppages of the first action.

Have a close look at the following sentences where the word when has been used.

  • They were walking to school when the accident happened. (Walking to school—action going on in the past. It rained-the second event or the cause of interruption).
  • I was studying when the phone rang. (Was studying- action going on. Phone rang- the second event or the cause of interruption).

One complex use of when and while

You have by now got it clear how to use when and while. You will use while for long duration actions and when for short actions.

But be careful about its correct use. To know more have a look at the following sentences.

  • I was working when he came. (Here when is used because the second action is the interruption reason and the short action).

But if the sentence is reversed then the use changes and you have to use while like-

  • He came while I was working. ( here we have to use while as it comes before the continuous action)

Over to You

Well by now you are in a much better position to understand how to use when and while.

To look at some more detailed use of when and while you can visit the following link-


The two words when and while are at times confusing. After going through this post, surely there are no more issues now.

Do you have anything more to add to this post? Do you have some more to provide to the readers? Give your valuable thoughts right now.

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Sujit Das

Site Owner and Main Content Creator. Works as Teacher at Skill English.

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