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a. She left while he took his bath.

b. She left when he took his bath.

Do these mean

  1. She left when he was starting to take his bath.

  2. She left while he was taking his bath. (He was taking his bath when she left.)

or

  1. She left after he took his bath.

?

Many thanks.

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  • 1
    The sentences are very short, so there is some wiggle room for interpretation as to the order of events.
    – J.R.
    May 13, 2017 at 8:19
  • I don't think a. and b. are truly correct sentences. Leaving in these examples is a short non-continuous action, if you pair it with a longer continuous one like showering, you should use the continuous tenses. The ambiguity derives from this mistake. Is there a context to these sentences or you made them up?
    – Korvin
    May 13, 2017 at 10:13

1 Answer 1

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“She left while he took his bath.”, tells us that he was taking a bath when she left. Clearly, she did not leave after he had taken it. “She left when he took his bath.”, may suggest that his taking a bath is in someway significant (meaning often requires context) to her leaving. The two events appear as if connected, but we are not told how.

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