I sprained my ankle ____ I was playing basketball.

I went through an earlier post of when vs while on SE. The difference in meaning of those sentences is pretty clear but what difference does using the two words makes in the above sentence? Which one is more appropriate? What I think is more appropriate is while because playing tells that the action was going on when his angle was sprained. Am I correct?

  • Whoever wrote this question (I'm presuming it comes from a textbook or practice exam) is wanting you to think about the subtle difference between these two words. That's all well and good, but most native speakers could hear either word in the blank, and the sentence will sound just fine either way.
    – J.R.
    Jul 13, 2017 at 16:59
  • Possible duplicate of As, when or while? Nov 24, 2017 at 4:54

1 Answer 1


In conversational English, the difference is practically meaningless.

But, there is a possible very subtle difference.

While focuses on the fact your were actively playing basketball when you sprained your ankle.

When suggests that playing basketball was the cause of the sprain as opposed to other activities you engaged in.

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