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'While' [conjunction vs preposition]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Er.S.M.M.Hanifa, Apr 2, 2010.

  1. Er.S.M.M.Hanifa Senior Member

    Tamil
    Hi everybody,
    1. -While- in Rome, we did a lot of sightseeing.
    2. -While- we were in Rome, we did a lot of sightseeing.
    I say 'while' is used as a preposition in the 1st sentence,
    whereas in the second sentence it is used as a conjunction.
    But my friend says 'while' is used as a preposition in both sentences.
    Who is correct?
    Please enlighten me.
    Thanks,
    Er.S.M.M.Hanifa
     
  2. JB

    JB Senior Member

    Santa Monica, CA, EEUU
    English (AE)
    "While" is definitely not a preposition, in either example. It is synonymous with "when", or "at the same time as".

    I believe it functions as an adverb of time, making these adverbial clauses or phrases, but I will let those more expert in grammar address that.
     
  3. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    I would call while a conjunction here, introducing an adverbial clause relating to time, as jbruceismay says.

    I also agree that it has the same function in both clauses. The second phrase "while in London" is an elliptical version of the clause "while [we were] in London."
     
  4. Er.S.M.M.Hanifa Senior Member

    Tamil
    Could you please give me an example using 'while' as a preposition ?
    Er.S.M.M.Hanifa
     
  5. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    If you follow the link to at the bottom of the definition of while:
    you will see that they mark "while" as a preposition as an "archaic" use. That means that you will not see it in modern writing, and they don't give an example.

    TheFreeDictionary.com gives the following definition and example of while as a preposition:
    Scot and northern English dialect another word for until: you'll have to wait while Monday for these sheets.​
     
  6. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Had it occurred to either of you, Er.S.M.M.Hanifa, that it might be a conjunctive prepostion? I've always wondered about them.
     
  7. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Thomas, could you please explain what a 'conjunctive preposition' is and/or give an example?
     
  8. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    No, absolutely not; it's beyond me. However, Angela Downing and Philip Locke's A University Course in English Grammar is full of explanations and examples of them. I couldn't understand a word of it.
     
  9. ame_chan87 New Member

    Malay
    how about - She is eating an ice cream while reading the newspaper.

    Is it a preposition?
     
  10. EStjarn

    EStjarn Senior Member

    Spanish
    Welcome to the forum, ame_chan87!

    As post 5 says, while is not used as a preposition in contemporary, standard English, which your sentence is an example of.
     
  11. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    No, it is a conjunction. The sentence is an elliptical form of She is eating an ice cream while she is reading the newspaper.
     
  12. tmotley3 New Member

    English
    Well, what about the sentence "She ate some ice cream after reading the newspaper"? If "after" is a preposition here, why isn't "while" a preposition in the other sentence? I say it is. By saying that "while reading..." is elliptical, you're suggesting that it's a clause, but it's not. It's an adverbial phrase. Even though "while" and "when" are normally considered conjunctions, they can act as prepositions when they introduce phrases rather than clauses. Similarly, though "after" is normally considered a preposition, it can act as a subordinating conjunction when it introduces a clause ("...after she read the newspaper").
     
  13. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    After is a preposition here because it can be followed by a noun. She ate some ice cream after Christmas.

    While
    is quite different. She is reading a newspaper while teatime. :cross:

    We do use while as a preposition in some dialects of Northern England but in a different sense. I'm not going home while (=until) Christmas.
     

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