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I was wondering if this sentence is okay:

The algorithm is inspired by the indirect local communication among the individuals of a population of ants when (they are) searching for food resources.

If I omit 'they are', does it remains correct? Can I replace 'when' with 'while' or 'whereas'?

  • Is an algorithm. I'm goind replace it with 'The algorithm'. – Víctor Martínez Jan 18 '17 at 16:09
  • If you replace "when" with "while," you can delete "they are." Not that "when" would be incorrect, but "while" just sounds more natural to my ear. "Whereas" is not a good option, as it would imply a negative or a contrast; e.g., "Sam has red hair, whereas John's is dark brown." Also, you have the option of deleting the word "resources" if you wish (although again there is nothing "incorrect" about leaving it in place, especially if "food resources" are mentioned elsewhere in your manuscript). – Mark Hubbard Jan 18 '17 at 16:28
  • Thank you for your comment, @MarkHubbard! I have found it extremely useful! – Víctor Martínez Jan 19 '17 at 8:19
  • There's nothing wrong with the omission of they are at all. For me, though, it makes a difference to the style. Omitting they are makes the sentence more 'formal' or 'academic'; leaving it in makes it more idiomatic. If the text is intended for a mass audience I would leave they are in, if not then either would be fine, but I would have a slight preference for the shorter form if the text is for academic consumption. – BoldBen Jan 20 '17 at 8:29
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Yes, it's correct after you remove "they are". It's understood from context that it's the ants doing the searching.

"while" is just as correct and maybe very slightly more clear.

"whereas" doesn't work here. It is used for contrast between things. For example

eagles are birds, whereas dogs are mammals"

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Yes, you can omit "they are" and the meaning can be derived by the context. Though there is a slight difference in the meaning when you use other words. Let me explain by examples below:

1) The algorithm is inspired by the indirect local communication among the individuals of a population of ants "when" searching for food resources.

Here, the word "when" would imply the communication of ants at a particular point of time (when they search for food, not clear if it is at the start of the search or end, it is discrete value and not a continuous one)

2) The algorithm is inspired by the indirect local communication among the individuals of a population of ants "while" searching for food resources.

Here, "while" would imply the communication going on during the activity "searching for the food". It is slightly different from "when" which points to a single point of time (that could be perceived as a second, or a day, but its discrete mathematically speaking)

3) The algorithm is inspired by the indirect local communication among the individuals of a population of ants "that" are searching for food resources.

Here, "that" refers to the ants who are involved in the activity of "searching for the food". This probably is not very relevant here because the algorithm is more about the communication at the time of food search, not about the ants.

4) You cannot use whereas which has a completely different meaning as explained in the other answer.

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