Someone has told me that if the verb of principal clause is continuous, then the subordinate clause started with while must also be in continuous tense. For example,

While mobile phone is becoming increasingly popular, the rate of terrorism is rising rapidly.

But in a grammar book, I saw the following sentence:

The rich are building heavy complexes, while the poor are homeless.

Here the principal clause is present continuous tense, but the subordinate clause is not also present continuous tense rather it is present indefinite tense.

If the mentioned rule by someone is wrong and the 2nd sentence is correct, then can I rewrite 1st sentence as following???

The rate of terrorism is rising rapidly, while mobile phone becomes popular.


1 Answer 1


The rule, like most rules in textbooks, is oversimplified.

What it omits is that while has two different meanings.

It is usually temporal (= "during the time that"), and the verb following it is usually in a continuous form (unless it's one of the verbs that rarely take this form): the verb in the main clause may be continuous or not, depending on the meaning.

But in your second example while has different meaning: contrastive, not temporal. It means "besides", or "on the other hand", or sometimes "even though". In the example given, it could be replaced by "yet" or "but".

  • Thank you. An additional question: if the main clause comes before the while clause, do we need a comma? For example, will comma be placed before while in the sentence: The rich are building heavy complexes, while the poor are homeless. ?
    – user149054
    Aug 18, 2018 at 8:53
  • 1
    I think most rules about commas are baloney. I might speak that with or without a pause, and so I might write it with or without a comma.
    – Colin Fine
    Aug 18, 2018 at 9:49

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