Although/while – A former student recently asked me about this combination. There isn’t, as far as I can tell, a hard and fast rule on when to use each of these terms, but there may be preferred usage, and that’s what I’ll explain here. “Although” tends to mean “in spite of the fact that.” According to Mignon Fogarty, also known as Grammar Girl, “although” is called a concessive conjunction, which means that it expresses a concession. For example, Although he admits he saw her in the crosswalk, he drove through the intersection anyway.
“While” can also mean “in spite of the fact that,” but it can also mean “at the same time.” The same sentence with the word “while” instead of “although” now has one of two different meanings. While he admits he saw her in the crosswalk, he drove through the intersection anyway. In that construction, the sentence could mean that in spite of the fact that he saw her in the crosswalk, he chose to keep driving through the intersection. This sentence might imply some indifference on the driver’s part, which may (or may not) matter to the meaning of the sentence. This same sentence could also mean that at the same time that he saw her in the crosswalk, he drove through the intersection. Perhaps there’s less driver indifference with that construction. “While” meaning “at the same time” is more clearly illustrated in this sentence: While Patrick raked the lawn, I cleaned the windows. In that sentence, the reader more clearly gets the sense that Patrick and I are each doing two separate tasks at the same time.
The difference between “although” and “while” may be slight, but when you’re striving for precision in your writing, you might be wise to choose “although” when you’re making a concession and “while” when you really mean “at the same time.” Read more »