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Setting: An air plane crashed and bunch of school students have been stranded in an island

Student A : Isn't it strange? Here we are talking to each other... when, since we're in different classes, we probably never would have spoken to each other if this hadn't happened.

Student B : Oh, that's not true.

Why the author put "when" in student A's dialogue? Is "when, since" equal to "Because back then"?

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    The students are stranded on an island... not sure if that's a typo or a misunderstanding.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 20, 2019 at 17:53

1 Answer 1

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When doesn't always mean anything to do with time. It can indicate circumstances of a hypothetical (which is almost to do with time), it can even describe current conditions. It can be used to illustrate current conditions, and is especially used to indicate surprising or incongruous conditions that make the sentence such a clause is attached to seem strange, unusual, etc.

Simple-ish example:

Isn't it weird that we're talking like we've know each other for years, when I don't even know your name?

If the strangeness is called out elsewhere in the sentence or text, you could usually replace when with and without loss of meaning. It can be more natural to use when in that situation, especially when you want to emphasise the contrast between the two conditions.

If you don't call out the strangeness explicitly, it is used to draw attention to it more subtly:

I'm here, interviewing for a highly paid position, when I don't even have my degree yet.

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  • If I replaced it with something to indicate contrast, I'd use even though rather than and. Feb 21, 2019 at 7:08
  • @JasonBassford: I don't mean to suggest replacing it with "and" is an optimal substitution, just that it's generally possible for this usage of "when".
    – SamBC
    Feb 21, 2019 at 8:59

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