While and when/ can you use them interchangeably

#1

Can when and while be used interchangeably.

Doctor: You have a very serious virus.
Stubborn patiet: Telling me I have a very serious virus when it is nothing but a simple chill?

Why when in this sentence and not while? I heard it on television. Can anyone shed some light on this please?

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#2

Yes, in some cases, when and while can be used interchangeably to refer to two things that are happening simultaneously.

Are you telling me I have a very serious virus when it is nothing but a simple chill?
and
Are you telling me I have a very serious virus while it is nothing but a simple chill?
are both correct and have the same meaning.

Just be careful, because in other cases, “when” is used to show a cause and effect. In this usage, “while” cannot be substituted.

My mom gets mad when I don’t clean my room. correct
My mom gets mad while I don’t clean my room. incorrect

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#3

Thanks for your answer Luschen.

But could you give me some more sentences when ‘when’ and ‘while’ cannot be used interchangeably. By the way the other day I was watching an episode of ‘Dynasty’. Dex says to Alexis;
‘I’m sorry I fell for a woman like that.’
Alexis: ‘When you could have me.’ It was something like that. I hope you can make sense of this.
Show me what is a ‘cause and effect’. As an American native speaker you know so much more of the beautiful English lingo. Mind you I prefer BrE, but I think AmE is enormously charming as well. (Don’t you think I should write a novel? BrE and AmE are the main characters. Oh, God please say ‘No’, :-))

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#4

Ha, that might be a good novel. But honestly, there is really not much difference at all between the two dialects. Maybe a love story between two people who think they are different, but really almost exactly the same? :wink:

Yes, your example is:

“Why settle for Sally when you could have me?” While will not work here.

Some other examples where “while” cannot be substituted for “when”:

When you get to New York, make sure to see Times Square.
“Doctor, it hurts when I raise my arm over my head like this.” “Then don’t raise your arm over your head like that!”
I see an angel when I look into your eyes.
When will you be done with your paper?
You will know it when you see it.
I always get nervous when I have to make a speech.

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#5

Thanks for your reply, Luschen

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