0

I am wondering if AS and WHILE can be used interchangeably.

Is as ok to use as in the following? Are these all correct? And if not which ones are right and wrong?

  1. I watched the sunset as the tide came in.

  2. I was watching the sunset as the tide came in.

  3. I was watching the sunset as the tide was coming in.

  4. I watched the sunset as the tide was coming in.

  5. I watched the sunset as it set.

  6. I was watching the sunset as it set.

  7. I was watching the sunset as it was setting.

  8. I watched the sunset as it was setting.

I ask because another usage of as is when stating something suddenly happening while doing something else as in.

  1. I dropped the plate as I was picking it up.
  2. The plate fell as I was picking it up. AS feels more natural than WHILE here... So can as be used here as well as above?
2
  • 1
    Both can refer to simultaneous events, and when they do the choice is the speaker's. However, both as and while have other uses in other constructions, and there they are not interchangeable. No pair of words is ever truly interchangeable in all contexts; when that happens, occasionally, either one of them develops a different use, or one of them dies out. May 17 at 13:45
  • 3
    I'm sorry, but the four setting sunsets don't work. The sun sets, but the sunset does not. May 17 at 14:12

2 Answers 2

3

Nos. 5 - 8 are wrong, not because of your use of as but because the sunset is the process of the sun setting. You would have to say I watched the sunset or the sun as it was setting.

1

My feeling (based only on native competence) is that as and while are possible in all ten examples. There are nuances of meaning: as refers to either a point in time (example 5) or a period (example 8); while refers only to a period of time, so if used in example 5 would change the meaning from a moment to a period.

You are right that as is more natural in the last two. Compare with "The plate was slowly wrested out of my hands while I was picking it up."

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.