The alarm clock rang <while/when> he was sleeping.

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Tenacious Learner

Senior Member
Spanish
Hi teachers,
After reading most of the threads about the conjunctions "when vs while" + the past progressive, I think that "while" is preferred to be used + the past progressive when we are talking about something that went on for a while, and that the use of language in real life is often based more on how it sounds rather than what is grammatically correct, isn't it?

That said, is there much of a difference in these two sentences? I think the differences are subtle, aren't they?
1. The alarm clock rang when he was sleeping. = The alarm clock rang at the time he was sleeping.
2. The alarm clock rang while he was sleeping. = The alarm clock rang during the time he was sleeping.

Thanks in advance.
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Hi, TL.

    I think that "while" is preferred to be used + the past progressive when we are talking about something that went on for a while,
    This sounds right to me.

    that the use of language in real life is often based more on how it sounds rather than what is grammatically correct, isn't it?
    I suppose that real language conforms to a fluent speaker's inner template of what is correct. If something sounds right to a native speaker, it doesn't violate that speaker's internalized grammatical rules. Of course, many of these rules are formed while speakers are still too young to study grammar analytically, as they do when they are older and begin their study of grammar in school.
     
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