Example 1

When I heard him talk, I asked him if he got a cold.

Example 2

After I heard him talk, I asked him if he got a cold.

(1) Do they have a difference?

Example 3

When I saw him stumble, I asked him if he was ok.

Example 4

When he stumbled, I asked him if he was ok.

(2) Are verbs like "hear," "see," and "watch" used differently from normal verbs like "stumble" in a when-clause?

  • 3
    Logically, you would ask someone if he had a cold after hearing him speak; but in practice, when is much more natural. Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 13:21
  • The semantics of your examples are such that they're all unchanged by switching from when to after. That's not the case with other very similar examples, such as When the doorbell rang, I was in the shower (where there's no way you could even use after at all, let alone while retaining the same meaning). Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 18:47

1 Answer 1


I don't think there's a difference between the first two sentences. The first would probably be more natural but either one is fine.

(Though, you would probably want to ask if he had a cold, rather than if he got a cold.)

The second two are also basically identical, and they both feel natural to me. (Although, the second sentence does of course imply that you saw the man stumble, rather than knowing about it in some other way.)

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