I learned that "while" means two : 1. during the time that 2. at the same time as

I think they are not interchangeable and actually different meaning.

To mean "at the same time as", I would so much rather use "as".

I would only use "while" to mean "during the time that"

And I think it's more common that "while" means "during the time that".

Do I have to get mixed up every time I see "while", trying to see which meaning it has?

Which one do you guys prefer to say to mean "at the same time as", "while" or "as"?

1 Answer 1


To me, the two definitions are just rewording of each other: not two different definitions. If event 1 happens during the time that event 2 happens, event 1 happens at the same time as event 2.

Let's look at "as" and "while" as synonyms. I would use "as" instead of "while" only if the stress was on the duration of time (as opposed to location or state).

I worked for a radio station while I was at university.

Here, I worked at a radio station at some point during my tenure at university, not during the entire duration. The time at university is used more as a state and not as a quantification of time. The whole time spent at university is not the focus here, just the fact that I was at university.

I listened to the radio while/as I waited in the car.

Here, we are trying to stress on the time spent. We want to elaborate on how that time was spent. We are using "I waited in the car" as a duration.

Typically, if I am using a clause to describe the duration of an action, I would use either "as" or "while": while/as I sat, while/as I spoke, while/as I lay, while/as we talked, etc. If I am trying to describe a state, instead of focusing on the duration, I would use "while", not "as": while I lived, while we were at the park, etc.

  • I know we can't say "while", when referring to "a period of life", like when I was young / when I was at university.
    – jihoon
    Jan 10, 2018 at 13:21
  • Funny, I say things happened while I was at University...
    – SamBC
    Mar 27, 2019 at 21:45

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