The Difference between During and While (English Grammar)

These words are similar in meaning (function), but they are used different grammatically. The main difference between during and while is as follows:

A Noun is Used after ‘During’

For example,

  • During dinner, we talked about school.
  • She slept during the movie.
  • Do not talk during the test.

A noun always comes after the word ‘during’. The word during is a preposition, not a conjunction. You cannot say ‘During she…. / During I…‘  because the preposition is always followed by a noun, not a clause with a subject and a verb.

He made a joke during dinner.

He made a joke during dinner.

Side Note: We do not use during to say how long something happens. Instead, we use ‘for’. For example,

  • She slept during the movie. (This is okay — ‘the movie’ is not a length.)
  • She slept during two hours. (This is wrong — ‘two hours’ is a length of time.)
  • She slept for two hours. (Correct!)

 

A Clause is Used after ‘While’

A clause has a subject and a verb (not just a noun). For example,

  • While we ate dinner, we talked about school.
  • She slept while the movie played.
  • Do not talk while students write the test.

The word while is a subordinating conjunction (like the word because or if); it begins a subordinate clause. You need to put a subject and a verb after while to make a sentence, for example: While she studied, he watched TV.

That’s it. You can see that the words can be used in a similar way, but the grammar is different.

Do you understand? Let’s try some exercises.

During vs. While: Practice Exercises

  1. Several glasses were broken  the party.
  2. I don’t use my cellphone  I drive.
  3. No one spoke  the first 30 minutes of the meeting.
  4. People don’t go outside  the cold winter months.
  5.  we waited for a table, Doreen and I discussed our plans for after dinner.
  6. Because she had studied English  her childhood, she was could speak well when she arrived in Canada.
  7.  the lecture, the Professor spoke  his students listened.

 

 

I hope this lesson has been useful and you are clearer on the difference between during and while. Please leave a comment below if you have a question or you find a mistake.

— Created by Matthew Barton (copyright) of Englishcurrent.com

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2 comments on “The Difference between During and While (English Grammar)

  1. Arif (Posted on 10-11-2017 at 13:36) Reply

    Sir,
    I have read your some writings covering another vs other etc. Your method to explain is excellent.
    I have learned new things from your teaching.Thanks.

    Would you please disscuss about when vs while, since,for,despite,inspite of etc.
    And determiner this,that,these and those.
    Wait to see your discussions.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 10-12-2017 at 02:41) Reply

      Hello Arif. I’m glad to hear that you’ve found the site useful. I’m hoping the pages become more popular with students. I think your suggestion for a page about this/that/these/those is a great idea. I’ll add it to my ‘to do’ list, though I’m not sure whether it’ll be the next thing I post or not. If you add Englishcurrent.com on Facebook, you’ll be able to see when a new post has been added. All the best in your studies and thank you for the feedback!
      Matthew

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