Get it right: while, during and throughout

A mistake that I hear very often as an English teacher, is learners getting mixed up between ‘while’ and ‘throughout’ when they are talking about two actions happening at once. Luckily, this is something that’s easy to get right if you think about the differences in the way these expressions are used.

We use ‘while’ to talk about two actions happening at the same time. We use a full clause (subject + verb) after while so we have a clear picture of both actions.

I took the kids to school while she was at work.

The phone rang while I was taking a shower.

We use during to talk about when something happens in relation to another event which lasts for a period of time. We use a noun after during. Note: we do not use during to talk about the length of time or the start or end point of the event.

I went skiing several times during the winter.

I was really bored during the meeting.

We use ‘throughout’ in almost the same way as ‘during’ except that it implies that the first action happens for the whole time of the second or at even intervals for the whole period of the second.

I went skiing several times during the winter. (Maybe all the skiing trips were at the beginning of the winter – we don’t know)

I went skiing several times throughout the winter. (The skiing trips were probably regular and happened for the whole winter season)

I was really bored during the meeting. (We don’t know if the speaker was bored at the beginning, end, or for the whole meeting)

I was really bored throughout the meeting. (The speaker was bored for the whole time the meeting was happening)

So, how about you? Do you listen to music while you are studying? What did you do during the weekend? Can you practise your hobbies throughout the year or do you need to take a break when the weather is bad? Answer the questions yourself to remember the correct way to use these words and them right when you are speaking English.

You can practice using the words ‘while’, ‘during’ and ‘throughout’ with our online lessons!

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