To talk about actions or situations that take place at the same time, we can use when or while.
We often use when/while to introduce the longer background action that was going on when something else happened.
Study the examples given below.
- I was reading. The lights went out.
Here reading is the longer background action so we use when to introduce it.
- When I was reading, the lights went out.
The sentence ‘I was reading when the lights went out’ is also correct.
More examples are given below.
- The family was sleeping. The burglars broke in.
- When the family was sleeping, the burglars broke in.
- Father was working in the garage. His friends turned up.
- When father was working in the garage, his friends turned up.
- I was playing football. I injured my ankle.
- When I was playing football, I injured my ankle.
There isn’t much difference between when and while; however, while is used to suggest that two long actions were going on at the same time.
- While I was doing my homework, my brother was playing video games.
Simple tenses are also possible.
- While mother cooked lunch, father tidied the house.
While is not used to talk about ages or periods of life. When is preferred in such situations.
- When I was a child, I lived with my grandparents. (NOT While I was a child…)
- His father died when he was four. (NOT His father died while…)
Combine the following sentences using when or while.
1. I was going to the library. I met my class teacher.
2. He was climbing the tree. He fell off the ladder.
3. He was repairing the roof. He lost his balance and fell down.
4. I was writing a letter. My pen ran out of ink.
5. I was completing the last answer. The teacher asked me to stop writing.
6. The boys were playing football. It started raining.
7. Amit was doing his homework. Rahul called him.
8. The boys were singing. The girls were dancing.
9. I was having a bath. The telephone rang.
10. He was having dinner. Somebody knocked on the door.
1. I was going to the library when I met my class teacher.
2. He was climbing the tree when he fell off the ladder.
3. He was repairing the roof when he lost his balance and fell down.
4. I was writing a letter when my pen ran out of ink.
5. I was completing the last answer when the teacher asked me to stop writing.
6. The boys were playing football when it started raining.
7. Amit was doing his homework when Rahul called him.
8. The boys were singing while the girls were dancing.
9. I was having a bath when the telephone rang.
10. He was having dinner when somebody knocked on the door.