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Please have a look on the following sentences:

  • As I get older I get more optimistic.
  • While I get older I get more optimistic.

In the example above, using 'as' or 'while' does not make any difference in their meanings at all, but in the following sentences:

  • While I am getting older I am getting more optimistic.
  • While I was getting older I was getting more optimistic.

I think whereas we have used progressive tenses in both above sentences, we cannot use 'as', because I think 'as' can be used only in simple tenses and 'while' can be used for both simple and progressive tenses simultaneously. Am I right?

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As I get older I get more optimistic.

is OK.

While I get older I get more optimistic.

Using simple present tense get after while, I don't expect action over time. You could say:

While I go to the store, I will pick up some ice cream.

which is a more time specific action.

So your progressive tense example is better:

While I am getting older I am getting more optimistic.

though more natural might be:

While I am getting older I am becoming more optimistic.

Optimism is an attitude that naturally changes over time, so becoming is better in this example.

  • Thanks @user3169. But could you clarify if you mean that I have to use 'as' only for simple tenses (at least to make more natural sense in second person), and 'while' for continuous tenses? ;) – A-friend Oct 18 '14 at 19:54
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    When you use "while" with the verb "get", yes. To me "get" implies a continuous action. For other verbs, that may not be the case, such as "While you are at the store, buy some beer.", where simple tense is fine. Check the definition while senses 2 and 3. – user3169 Oct 18 '14 at 20:52
  • Therefore can we conclude in the following way: "As I opened my eyes I heard a strange voice" = "While I opened my eyes I heard a strange voice" Are both above sentences the same and natural? – A-friend Oct 18 '14 at 21:22
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    In "While I opened my eyes I heard a strange voice", I imagine that it took some time for your eyes to open, which is not so logical. But if that were the case, the second one might be OK. "As I opened my eyes I heard a strange voice" is OK. It is kind of like the difference between at the time (as) vs. during the time (while). – user3169 Oct 18 '14 at 21:48
  • Oh, based on my textbook they mean exactly the same, but according to your statements, I guess they not only do not mean the same, but also have different usages. So I will remember ==> "As: at the time " --- "While: during the time" – A-friend Oct 18 '14 at 22:58

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