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When I lived in France, I spent a lot of time honing my French.

When I was living in France, I spent a lot of time honing my French.

While I was living in France, I spent a lot of time honing my French.

All three are very close in meaning. I wonder when one should or could use each so that it is natural.

My reaction is this:

When I lived in France, I spent a lot of time honing my French.

It can be either one occasion or more than one.

When I was living in France, I spent a lot of time honing my French.

The same as the previous. So, what's the difference between 1 and 2?

While I was living in France, I spent a lot of time honing my French.

It's only one occasion

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  • 3
    I would say all of them have the same meaning and can be interchanged freely, at least in everyday speech.
    – Esther
    Nov 27, 2022 at 16:11
  • Can 2 mean that I was living in France off and on?
    – user1425
    Nov 27, 2022 at 17:35
  • 2
    all of them can have that meaning
    – Esther
    Nov 27, 2022 at 17:39

1 Answer 1

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All three mean the same thing. They have no implication regarding the number of times the speaker lived in France.

If you really want to find differences between them, there is a very slight difference due to "When I lived in…" emphasizing a clear-cut, definite time interval when the speaker lived there, and "When/while I was living in…" not emphasizing the time interval. You could use the choice of emphasis to suggest that you undertook a rigorous and deliberate program of honing your French during your time in France ("When I lived in…"), or to suggest that you haphazardly honed your French when opportunities arose during your time there ("When I was living in…").

None of this is a rule, of course.

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