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Are “while” and ”whereas” completely interchangeable in concessive clauses? For example, are the following two sentences equally grammatical?

a) The concert was supposed to last for at least an hour, while it lasted only forty minutes.

b) The concert was supposed to last for at least an hour, whereas it lasted only forty minutes.

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It's true that while can sometimes be used "timelessly" to introduce a second clause that somehow "contradicts" the preceding clause (i.e. - while [on the other hand] = whereas = but = however).

As a native speaker I don't find OP's first example very idiomatic, but it's hard to explain exactly why. It's worth noting that I have no problem at all with what seems to be essentially the same construction...

Protons and electrons have equal and opposite charges, while neutrons are electrically neutral.

My gut feel is that my example is "okay" because the context is so clearly a timeless statement of "eternal truth" concerning two statements which are both (continuously, always) true, and which are mutually "contrastive, complementary".

This is subtly different to OP's context, where the second statement doesn't so much "complement, reflect" the first assertion - it flatly refutes, denies, contradicts it.


My advice would be to prefer whereas (or more commonly, but) rather than while in all similar contexts. That way you'll never actually be "wrong" (to me, at least; I accept that perhaps some native speakers would be happy with OP's usage as it stands).

  • Thank you for your answer, but what is "OP"? – Zak Jul 23 '18 at 13:33
  • @Zak Usually OP means “original poster” (That’s you!) or “original post”. see ell.meta.stackexchange.com/q/2902/9161 for more explanation – ColleenV Jul 23 '18 at 13:53
  • @ColleenV: I think the usage has been queried several times both here and on ELU. On reflection I should perhaps try to avoid using it in answers (where the primary target readership is in fact the OP him/herself! :) It's all very well using it in comments (where if the context involves referencing the OP, the comment is likely to be directed towards another more experienced "SO-savvy" user). In fact, do you think that might be useful "style guidance" worth putting up for discussion on meta? – FumbleFingers Jul 23 '18 at 15:29
  • I do think it would be worthwhile to bring it up on meta. We’ve had some discussions about using simple English and some formatting discussions, and if we could evolve those discussions into a community wiki style guide for ELL I think it would be really helpful, especially for newer members. Maybe We should create a style guide tag... – ColleenV Jul 23 '18 at 15:53

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