A. Not only was I watching TV, I was also eating dinner.

B. While I was watching TV, I was eating.

C. While I was watching TV, I eat dinner.

What are the differences in meaning between these?

Edited: As far as I know, B and C mean the same thing.

And, I am wondering whether A means B or C? if not, is there any situation where we could use A rather than B or C?

I, of course, have already comprehensively studied about the construction"A".

  • 1
    Your question is not clear, and I think most people could not figure out what you want to ask. I suggest that you try to reword them, or maybe make some examples and ask if they are ok or not. You may also wish to see: learnersdictionary.com/qa/not-only-but-also Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 11:20
  • 1
    ... and to expound on what Jim wrote, you may want to include an example sentence of what you mean- just in case your explanation is still unclear.
    – Gary
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 12:25
  • 1
    The question is getting clearer, I think. If possible, please tell us WHY you are asking, and if you think there is any difference between them. Without more information, I think it is still difficult to answer. Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 16:58
  • C is grammatically incorrect, due to the conflicting tenses. However, If you said "Whilst I watch TV, I eat dinner", then that would be correct and would indicate a general behaviour, rather than B, which is talking about one specific occurrence.
    – Steve Ives
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 9:36

2 Answers 2


"Not only..., but (also)..." is used to create a certain kind of emphasis. Let's look at some examples:

Not only was she an accomplished pianist, but she could also write great poetry.

In this example, we have a person who is already really good at something, but wait, there's more! She is also really good at something else.

Not only did I pass the test, but I also got the highest score in the class.

Again, passing the test is just one part of the story, but there's more - the speaker did better than everyone else. In both cases, the second part of the "story" is something that's not obvious or implied by the first part.

Your example sounds like it's used for comic purposes, because eating and watching TV are everyday things and there is nothing unusual or unexpected about doing them at the same time.

While I was watching TV, I was eating dinner.

This is a simple statement that one thing was happening while another thing was also happening. Another example would be "While I was walking to work, I was thinking about my many projects."

While I was watching TV, I eat dinner.

This sentence is grammatically incorrect - you're mixing a past tense and a present tense, and in English the tenses of verbs have to be in agreement within the same sentence. You could say "While I was watching TV, I ate dinner", which means that you were watching TV long enough to start your dinner and finish it, and possibly kept watching TV after that, or started watching it before dinner. In other words, the emphasis isn't that watching and eating were happening at the same time, but rather that all the eating was done and finished while the watching was going on.

  • I think that the more common statement for example B would be: While I was watching TV, I ate dinner. The sentence as it stands, while not incorrect, feels a bit wordy.
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 8:11
  • Actually, looks like I added "dinner" there, the original example was just "I was eating". My bad, feel free to edit it.
    – RuslanD
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 8:17

The "Not only ..., but also..." sentence is used when each item taken on it's own is something meritorious or special; both together is exceptional.

E.g. "Not only does she have an Olympic gold medal, she also has a first-class law degree" or "Not only is he a skilled computer programmer, he is also an excellent picture framer".

It is common for the 2 items to be in different fields e.g you probably wouldn't say "Not only is he the 100m record holder, but he's also the 200m record holder".

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