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Metals occupy a rather special position in the study of solids, (while) sharing a variety of striking physical properties that other solids such as sulfur lack.

One of my friends has told me the following. But, I cannot yet understand it well and I don’t know if it is correct. Would you please explain it more simply?

You are referring to one single fact about metals (the fact that they have special properties). If you say "while", it looks as if you are referring to two different facts. So you should leave out "while".

Thanks in advance

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Your friend is mistaken. In this usage, while is used to mean "and at the same time" and is an idiomatic, grammatical and creative way of appending another description (in your example) without using just and:

Metals occupy a rather special position in the study of solids, and at the same time share a variety of striking physical properties that other solids such as sulfur lack.

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  • I have to agree with the friend: the statement is meant to be interpreted as "the special position is BECAUSE they share certain physical properties that others lack." Using While instead of because makes the two facts unrelated and destroys the meaningfulness of the sentence. – Hellion Aug 5 '14 at 22:22
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    I should mention that your description of the usage is entirely valid; it's just not the desired or intended meaning here. – Hellion Aug 5 '14 at 23:42
  • Thanks! I see that now. I wonder if I should delete my answer. – CocoPop Aug 6 '14 at 2:21
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Your friend understands the intended meaning of the sentence to be:

Metals occupy a rather special position in the study of solids, because they share a variety of striking physical properties that other solids such as sulfur lack.

In this sentence, the second part of the sentence is giving more specific evidence for the first part:

Metals are special because of their special properties.

However, using "while" makes it sound like you are saying "and" — that the two parts of the sentence are simply two different things that are true about metals:

Metals are special, and they also have special properties, [but that's not why they're special].

If you really meant to say "and", and really didn't mean to say "because", then the first part of your statement lacks specifics. Why are metals special?

If you remove the word "while" from your sentence, like your friend suggests, then the second part of your sentence would be understood as supporting the first part, rather than being "in addition to".

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  • Thanks. Nevertheless, what about because? if I replace while with because, then does the sentence make sound as well as later? – nima Aug 6 '14 at 17:06
  • You can't simply replace the word "while" with "because"; that would break the grammar. Something like what I did in my example of the sentence with "because" works fine. The sentence also works fine by just removing "while" and not replacing it with anything, as your friend suggested. – Dan Getz Aug 6 '14 at 19:11

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