While vs When – What’s the difference?

While Vs When – What’s the difference? Spoken English lesson to speak fluently & Confidently


An English learning student had slight trouble with understanding the major difference between the two words “while” and “when”.  So I made this Spoken English lesson because I know that many of you who are learning to speak fluent English face a similar challenge.  Firstly, let me make it very simple by saying that both these words are used when you are talking about two actions that happen at the exact same time.


1) When two continuous actions are happening at the same time we will use “while”

  • Eg: I am teaching while my brother is out playing football.


1) When two single actions happen at the same time or one action happens right after the other we used “when”

  • Eg: He called me when I got home
  • Eg: When I ate, I felt better.

2) Ages and periods of life

  • Eg: I used to walk a lot when I was young
  • Eg: I graduated when I was 21.

3) Used as a question (to know the time)

  • Eg: When do we leave from here?

 But what happens when we have a continuous action and a single action in the same sentence.  Do we use “while” or “when”? Now that’s a tricky question.  But I’ll make it very simple and clear for you.

  • Eg: He got into a fight while we were shopping.

In this case, you can use both “while” or “when” mainly because the single action comes before the continuous action. But if we change the sentence around we say

  • Eg: We were shopping when he got into a fight. (Single action comes after the continuous action)

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