He was watching TV when I came in.

I came in when he was watching TV.

As we know, simple or continuous verb forms can be used in when-clauses. It seems the second example is semantically different from the first one. If so, what is the difference between these two examples in usage of "when"?

1 Answer 1


Yes there is a slight difference between the two. The first sentence denotes how you just noticed that he was watching TV when you came in. The second sentence denotes how you walked in when he was watching TV, which might show how you already knew he was watching TV and purposely walked in. It could also mean the same as the first sentence as well.

  • 2
    It's just a slight difference in emphasis. The first lays stress on what he was doing, the second on what the speaker did. May 20, 2022 at 8:31

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