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