While: conjunction

While has three different functions when it is used as a conjunction. It can:

  • refer to time
  • express contrast
  • be a synonym for although.
While shows us that something happens at the same time something else is happening.
synonym: when

I fell asleep while I was watching television.
(= 'I fell asleep in the middle of watching television.')

It didn't rain at all while we were on holiday.
(= 'It didn't rain during our holiday.')
We use while with the present continuous and past continuous tenses to show longer actions which are interrupted:

It started raining while I was waiting for the bus. (past continuous)
The phone always rings while I'm having a shower. (present continuous)
We also use while with the present simple and past simple tenses:

My wife walked the dog while I washed the car. [past simple]
I'll tidy the house while you are at work. [present simple]

Be careful we do not use will after while when speaking about the future:

I'll tidy the house while you will be at work.


  1. Areeya Malaniyom - September 27, 2015, 9:41 am Reply

    As a language teacher, I would like to improve myself all the time of modern English so that I can share with my students.

  2. Fawad Qadery - October 25, 2016, 5:10 am Reply

    Using while in conditional sentence; is below sentence correct or not?
    A company can be successful while it has marketing strategy. (should we use WHEN instead of WHILE or it’s ok?)

    • Phil - December 29, 2016, 3:38 am Reply

      Fawad –

      Just a comment as native speaker – if you use while, you’re emphasizing the duration of time (it can be successful over months / years). If I were to use when (whenever) I would be focussing on the idea of marketing strategy and changing the emphasis away from the duration of time.

      Not sure of the reasoning behind it, but those are my idea.

      In short, I would say that either option is fine to use.

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