When we use " While "


Hello, I'm Japanese who is learning English !!    My friends asked me whether there is any difference between " While he is singing a song,  I was seeing stars" and " While he is singing a song, I saw stars."   The reason why she and I were confused was due to  Japanese translaion..... because the text book says" I saw stars " in this sentence means I was watching stars .  so We don't need to say "  was seeing stars " ?????/ we wonder it is correct or not. Please give us any hints !!

asked Aug 01 '13 at 13:18 Iku New member

1 answer


Both of your sentences have errors in tense agreement between the verbs. I'm guessing that the 'seeing stars' part is a figurative allusion to being enthralled (very happy with) the music.


The past progressive tense would in both clauses would be correct in the first sentence.

While he was singing a song,  I was seeing stars.


In your  second sentence, you could use past progressive plus past tense or past tense in both clauses.

While he was singing a song, I saw stars.

While he sang a song, I saw stars.


The main thing to remember is to keep both verbs in the same time frame, the past in this case.

link answered Aug 01 '13 at 13:45 Lewis Neidhardt Grammarly Fellow

Dear Lewis

Thanks for helping me. May I have last question to you ?? I'm still confused. I'm sorry for my English level , but I'm glad if you give me one more hint! While he was singing a song, I was seeing stars. and While he was singing a song, I saw stars. Is there any difference meaning beween them ?? Thanks !

IkuAug 02 '13 at 13:33

Yes. there is a huge difference between the two sentences that are wrong and right. When you use while, it means in the meantime. You have to use past continuous tense in the sentence to be entirely correct. Here is the breakdown.

- Subject + Simple Past-While-Subject + Past Progressive

To your second sentence, you have to use this structure: Subject + Past Progressive-When-Subject + Simple Past.

ducdang123Aug 08 '14 at 09:27

''Yes, there'' revised

ducdang123Aug 08 '14 at 09:27

Sorry to confuse you. My above comments are grammatically inaccurate.

Using the word while means the two or more actions are both happening at the same time in the past.

Here are the actual structures:
Subject+ past progressive+while+subject 2+ past progressive
While+ subject+ past progressive + subject 2 +past progressive

This is the uncommon structure.

While+subject+past progressive+ subject 2 +simple past. I think this is the one that Lewis is avoiding to use in grammar.

ducdang123Aug 08 '14 at 09:40

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