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26 / 09 / 2006

DURING vs. WHILE: meaning and examples

Good morning,

On Friday we looked at the difference between the words for and during. Today we are going to look at the difference between while and during.

Remember that we said that during is used before an activity to indicate that a parallel action is happening at the same time as that activity. Below is one of the examples from Friday.

Example 1:
I fell asleep during the film because it was so boring. (The sleeping happened at the same time as the film.)

Notice that during is followed by a noun, which often represents an activity (during the film).

While is used to refer to a background period of time in which another activity happened. It is very similar to during, but it is followed by a sentence (while subject verb...), so they are not interchangeable.

Example 2:
Stan: When did you lose your credit cards?
Mark: I think it was while I was shopping in Boulevard Rosa.

Example 3:
Rachel: I'm sorry to hear your husband has a broken leg. What happened?
Nancy: He fell off the ladder while he was painting the ceiling.

Example 4:
We can prepare the dessert while the meat is cooking.

To use during in the above sentences, we have to change the structure of the sentence. Consider example 4(a):

Example 4(a):
We can prepare the dessert during the cooking of the meat.

It is more common to use the word when in the place of while, especially in informal conversation.

Example 4(b):
We can prepare the dessert when the meat is cooking.

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Have a great day!