When vs While

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What’s the difference between them?



When is a word that is used as a conjunction to indicate the time at which something happens or happened, or the time when it is or was done.


1. When I went to the store, they were out of my favorite ice cream.

2. When I'm feeling stressed out, I like to go for a walk.

3. When I looked up at the sky, I saw a flock of birds flying by.



While: at the same time that; during; throughout the time that; as long as.


1. While I was washing the dishes, I heard a loud noise outside.

2. We took a break while the food was cooking.

3. While walking home, I noticed the sky was turning pink.

Learn similar and opposite words to spot the difference




1. At the same time

2. Instantly

3. Immediately

4. Momentarily

5. Concurrently

1. Immediately

2. Before

3. Earlier

4. Subsequently

5. Afterward


1. As

2. When

3. Whereas

4. During

5. At the same time

6. Simultaneously

1. Halt

2. Depart

3. Abstain

4. Cease

5. Standstill

Tricks for mastery

Useful tips to understand the difference between confusing words "When", "While".

1. When is used to indicate a single moment in time, a definite event or occurrence.

2. While is used to indicate a continuous period of time.

3. Mnemonic phrase: 'when' marks one moment in time, 'while' marks a period of time.

4. When describing a single, definite event or occurrence, use 'when'.

5. When describing an ongoing period of time, use 'while'.

Check the full list of commonly confused words in English

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Frequently asked questions

When should the word 'when' be used?

When is used to refer to a specific point in time or event that has already happened or is about to happen. For example, when I was a child, or when the game starts.

When is the appropriate context for using the word 'while'?

While is used to refer to a period of time or an ongoing event that is taking place. For example, while I was growing up, or while the game was being played.

Do the two words share the same pronunciation?

No, the two words are not pronounced the same way. The word 'when' is pronounced /wen/, and while is pronounced /wail/.

What are some common mistakes people make when using these words?

A common mistake is using 'while' when 'when' should be used, or vice versAdditionally, people may incorrectly pronounce one word or the other.

Fill in the gaps to check yourself

1. I was in Paris ___ I received your message.

2. ___ she was reading, the power went out.

3. Do you remember the day ___ we first met?

4. Be careful ___ using the stove, it can get very hot.

5. ___ will you be arriving at the station?

6. I enjoy listening to music ___ working out at the gym.

1. when

Explanation: The sentence refers to a specific point in time (receiving the message) that occurred during another event (being in Paris). When is appropriate as it indicates a specific time something happens or happened.

2. while

Explanation: The sentence describes two events happening simultaneously (reading and the power going out). While is used to indicate something happening at the same time as another event.

3. when

Explanation: The sentence is referring to a specific point in time (the day of the first meeting), making when the appropriate choice.

4. while

Explanation: The sentence advises caution during the action of using the stove, hence while is the right choice as it indicates during the time something is happening.

5. when

Explanation: The question is asking for a specific time of arrival, making when the suitable choice.

6. while

Explanation: This sentence refers to two activities (listening to music and working out) that occur simultaneously, hence while is the appropriate choice to indicate that they happen at the same time.

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List of Commonly Confused Words

Finding your way around the English language can be hard, especially since there are so many confusing words and rules. So, a list of the most confusing words in English is an extremely useful tool for improving language accuracy and sharing the ideas clearly.