when he coughed/was coughing:: slept/ was sleeping

lokasseyve

Senior Member
Mandarin
Hi,
1. When he coughed, the baby woke up.
2. When he was coughing, the baby woke up.

Is there any difference? Or they just have the same meaning?

Thanks in advance.
 
  • pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    1 sounds to me like he coughed once, and the baby woke up.

    2 sounds like he was coughing for some period of time, during which the baby woke up.
     

    lokasseyve

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    Thanks for your reply.
    But I have one more question because I'm confused now.

    1. When she slept, an earthquake hit.
    2. When she was sleeping, an earthquake hit.

    Do they have the same meaning? Or
    does (1) mean "as soon as she fell asleep, an earthquake hit?"
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    1) does seem to say as soon as she fell asleep. We would say "While she slept, an earthquake hit." in order to express the same meaning as 2.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    1. When she slept, an earthquake hit.
    2. When she was sleeping, an earthquake hit.

    Do they have the same meaning? Or does (1) mean "as soon as she fell asleep, an earthquake hit?"
    Sentence (1) actually doesn't make sense to me. It's not the same sort of situation as you started with: "When he coughed" is a single event: He (whoever that was) coughed, and the noise evidently woke the baby. "When she slept" isn't an event.

    Sentence (2) would make sense if you replaced "When" with "While": While she was sleeping, an earthquake hit. That means the earthquake occurred during the time that she was sleeping.

    Edit: I've just seen Myridon's comment (we cross-posted); his "While she slept, . . . " is equally good.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This time they are the same.
    The difference is that "When he coughed" defines a very small period of time - one event in "When he was coughing": "When she slept" defines a long period of time - the same as "When she was sleeping".

    Edit: I agree with Parla that the sleeping versions would be better with "while".
     
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