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My question is about the words "when" & "while" in the sentences (when/while doing; when a + noun (instead of "when I was" etc.)).

Could you please explain 2 and let me know if 1, 6, 7 are correct?

  1. When I entered the room / when entering the room / entering the room, I found her playing the piano
  2. a. When she was a child / when a child, she liked to read books
    b. When he was a student / when a student, he often missed classes

As we can't use "being": being a child (my English language book says we can't).

However, "being" is used in the following sentences (found in the internet):

  1. So I, being a great girlfriend, tried to help him out
  2. I used to make a living, being the sheriff in this town here
  3. Being a pastor, I started reading the Bible

So what's the difference between A and B sentences:

A. When a child, she liked to read books
B. Being a pastor, I started reading the Bible

I'm going to ask in another way: in which cases we should use "being a student" and when is it better to say "when I was a student/when a student"?

  1. While I was taking a shower / while taking a shower / taking a shower, I heard a strange noise in the kitchen
  2. While he was in Berlin / while in Berlin, he made some new friends
  • You could substitute the word “being” in the sentences above with “because I am” and the context would be correct, but the same cannot be said when substituting “when” with “because I am”. – Chris Rogers Aug 25 '18 at 6:10
1

All of the sentences are fine.

Although just taking a shower, I heard . . . is quite unusual and would not normally be used. Verbs that convey an ongoing action are most often preceded by something like while, when, in the middle of, before, after, or some other type of reference to time.


However, either your English book is wrong or you've misinterpreted it. There is nothing wrong with the phrase being a child per se. There's only a problem with it in certain contexts.

✔ When a child, she liked to read books.

This sentence is fine.

It's the same thing as saying that she liked to read books when she was a child.

✔ Being a child, she was unable to vote.

This sentence is also fine.

In this case, however, what it means is that she was unable to vote because she was a child.

✘ Being a child, she liked to read books.

While there is nothing wrong with the syntax of this sentence, it's wrong because it's nonfactual (or, illogical with respect to reality).

It's not true that children like reading books because they are children. Many children don't like reading books.


The same rationale holds true for being a pastor.

✔ Being a pastor, I started reading the Bible.

You started reading the Bible because you were a pastor. That's completely rational.

✘ Being a pastor, I couldn't touch my toes.

There's nothing about being a pastor that prevents you from touching your toes.

  • 1
    @JasonBassford Do you think people say When a child, she liked to read books nowadays? – userr2684291 Aug 25 '18 at 9:17
  • @userr2684291 - I’m with you; it rings a bit odd to me, too. When she was a child, she liked to read books. I think one could argue it’s grammatical either way, but it sure sounds a little unnatural to me. – J.R. Aug 25 '18 at 9:38
  • @J.R. The OED (2nd edition) says: "Also ellipt. with only the predicate expressed, e.g. when a boy = 'when he (I, etc.) was a boy'; when cold = 'when it is cold.'" and has this citation from 1779: He lost his father when an infant. Webster's Dictionary (1961) says: "at or during the time that : while", with on one occasion, when a boy, I went fishing with three other boys — W.J.Reilly as one of the citations. MW, however, has "at or during the time that : while", and went fishing when he was a boy. – userr2684291 Aug 25 '18 at 9:57
  • @userr2684291 - Yeah, I’m not surprised to find it in the OED. But it still sounds like a turn of phrase I’m more likely to read in an old book than hear during a meeting at work. – J.R. Aug 25 '18 at 10:01
  • @userr2684291 Personally, when a child specifically is irrelevant; I would almost never use any when [something | verb], [someone] [verb] construction. I would opt instead for when [someone] [helper verb+verb | verb], [someone] [verb]. But it sounds natural to me in the context of newspaper headlines or other elliptical statements. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Aug 25 '18 at 14:01

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