I want to express the concept that, by learning more and more about some topic, with time I will progressively become more skilled. I think the correct conjunction in this case is "as", right? I.e.,

As I keep learning about X, I will progressively become more skilled.

However, I also heard a coworker saying:

While I keep learning about X, I will progressively become more skilled.

Neither of us is a native English speaker. Is his form also acceptable?

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    Both are grammatical and fine. "While" is indicative of the two things happening at the same time, whereas "As" seems to me to imply a link between the learning and the becoming-more-skilled that could be deeper than just related in time. – RaceYouAnytime May 19 '17 at 19:45
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    @DeltaIV: I didn’t edit However into However.  If you switch into the “side-by-side markdown” view, you’ll see that, on the previous revision, Tonepoet inserted <br> before However.  In case you don’t know HTML and/or Markdown, that stands for “break”, as in “line break”.  If you switch back into the “side-by-side” view, you’ll see that that inserted a blank line before the “However, I also heard a coworker saying:” line.  … (Cont’d) – Scott May 20 '17 at 15:31
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    (Cont’d) …  I believed that that was unnecessary and inappropriate, so I removed it, restoring that line to how you wrote it originally.  (Well, I left the “:” that Brillig previously added.)  Note that Stack Exchange’s compare tool is a little bit weird about displaying whitespace-only changes in “side-by-side” view.  … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …  You might want to ask Tonepoet why they added the <br>. – Scott May 20 '17 at 15:31
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    @DeltaIV: As long as you’re asking about my edit, just so you know: in English, words like “any”, “each”, “either”, “neither” and even “every” are considered to be singular, so “Neither he nor I are …” is technically wrong.  But, while “Neither he nor I is …” is technically right, it’s jarring, and most people (even native English speakers!) would question it. So that’s why I changed the last paragraph the way I did. – Scott May 20 '17 at 15:31
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    @DeltaIV: By the way, I’m not sure that @Jsasz is wrong, but I believe that your tense combination is OK.  These other examples: “As the drought continues, the crops will wither and fail,” and “While the snow keeps falling, I won’t be able to get to the store,” seem right.  As these are statements about the future, changing the main (second) clause to the present tense is inappropriate.  But changing the subordinate (first) clause into the future tense, while not impossible, would be awkward and non-idiomatic. – Scott May 21 '17 at 21:02

As @RaceYouAnytime said, the two things happen at the same time. I think, however, this means that the tense needs to match between the two clauses. So it is better to say, "as I learn about X, I become more skilled," or "while I learn about X, I become more skilled." Using the present participle it is then, "as I keep learning about X I am becoming more skilled," or "while I keep learning about X I am becoming more skilled."

In contrast, using a different connective, one could say "if I learn about X, then I will become more skilled." This implies that it is a present condition which promises a reaction in the future. The present participle is then, "if I keep learning about X, then I will be progressively becoming more skilled."

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  • To use your words , my case is that of a present (or maybe "ongoing") condition which promises a present (ongoing) reaction. I become more skilled because I learn more, but the two things happen (or keep happening) more or less at the same time. – DeltaIV May 20 '17 at 9:47
  • You suggest that the tense must be the same among the clauses. Probably you're right - then mine must be a "false friend" case. There is an expression in my native language, which uses the present tense in the dependent clause (the one starting with "As") and the future tense in the main clause, so I was unconsciously using the same in English. BTW, Google Translate translates that expression in "my" way ("As", present tense, future tense ) but it's surely just conforming to the tenses in my original expression: I don't think it can understand the subtle differences [ctd] – DeltaIV May 20 '17 at 9:59
  • [ctd] in the use of tenses among different languages. – DeltaIV May 20 '17 at 9:59

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