What is the difference between “when” and “before” in this sentence?

Michael had been living for four years in Italy, when he decided to move to America.

This sentence makes no sense to me because “when” is not being used appropriately.

Michael had been living for four years in Italy, before he decided to move to America.

I think the above sentence is better.

Which one is correct and why?

Answer

Both are correct.

When (as a conjunction) can mean upon or after which or and then: “We had just fallen asleep when the bell rang.” Scroll down to the last Definition 6 in this dictionary

So if you use upon which, after which, or and then in the sentence, you get the meaning of when.

Thus:

Michael had been living for four years in Italy, when he decided to move to America.

These are two separate actions:

Step 1. Michael lived in Italy for four years.
Step 2. Then he decided to move to America.

Put together:

Michael had been living for four years in Italy, and then he decided to move to America.

It is just like:

Step 1: We had just fallen asleep.
Step 2: Then the bell rang.

We had just fallen asleep when (and then) the bell rang.

Note that the past perfect had fallen asleep indicates a completed action in the past. The just modifies this to mean a completed action that just occurred a short while ago, even just a second ago. But the action was still completed in the past. That is why sometimes it is so rough to be awakened by a bell or an alarm clock after just having falling asleep.

Attribution
Source : Link , Question Author : Cesare , Answer Author : Community

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