‘Meanwhile’ or ‘while’ — which one should you use? In this short English grammar class, you will learn about the words ‘meanwhile’ and ‘while’ and how they are confused. You will find many examples.
Speaking English: WHILE or MEANWHILE? video
Hello, my name is Emma, and in today’s video, we are going to talk about the difference between: “meanwhile” and “while”. Okay? So, often times, these words are confused and I will tell you when to use which. So, let’s get started.
First of all, I have two sentences. The first sentence:
“I will do my homework while you watch TV.”
The second sentence:
“I went to a concert. Meanwhile, my friend was at a restaurant.”
Okay, I want you to think for one second. Can you see any differences between these sentences? I know they’re different sentences, but try to think: what is the difference between: “while” and “meanwhile”? Take a guess. Okay.
So, let me explain some of the differences. Both of these: “while”, “meanwhile”, both of them have a very similar meaning. You use it when two things, two actions are happening during the same time, at the same time. Okay? So when two things are happening usually at the same time. So, the difference is really in how we construct the sentence.
If you look at my chart here, I have: “while” versus: “meanwhile”, or: “meanwhile” versus: “while”. One of the first differences I want to point out is that “meanwhile” connects two sentences. So we have our first sentence: “I went to a concert. Meanwhile, my friend was at a restaurant.” So: “meanwhile”, you always need two sentences; the actions are split up into two sentences.
Another thing that’s important to know is that you can’t have “meanwhile” here. “Meanwhile, I went to a concert. My friend was at a restaurant.” It doesn’t work. It always has to be two actions, and “meanwhile” goes between these two actions. So there’s always a sentence about an action, and then “meanwhile” with the second action. Okay, so it connects two sentences.
With “while”, what do you notice? “I will do my homework while you watch TV.” How many sentences are there? If you said: “one”, you are correct; this is just one whole sentence. So, we still have two actions. The first action: “I will do my homework”, second action: “you watch TV”, but it is all in one sentence; there is only one period, not two. So that’s a major difference between: “while” and: “meanwhile”. Two sentences versus one sentence.
What’s another difference? Let me jump here. Notice where “meanwhile” is located in the sentence. It’s at the beginning of the second sentence, like I mentioned. So you say the first sentence, “meanwhile”, second sentence. Whereas with “while”, it can be at the beginning or middle of a sentence. So, for example, I could say: “I will do my homework while you watch TV.” This is in the middle of a sentence. But I could change this sentence to: “While you watch TV, I will do my homework.” So you have a choice with this; it can be here or here. I could say: “While I… While I do my homework, you can watch TV.” So the placement of “while” can change, “meanwhile”, it can’t change; it’s stuck where it is. So let’s look at some more differences.
So what are some other differences between: “while” and “meanwhile”? Well, one of them you might have noticed is the comma. “Meanwhile”… So I have some sentences… Some new sentences here. Actually, let me first tell you these sentences.
“Every day, I eat breakfast while reading the newspaper.”
“While you sang, I took pictures of you.”
“Mom worked all day. Meanwhile, I was at school.”
So what can you notice about commas? There is a comma always after “meanwhile”. Okay. So that’s a difference. With “while”, is there a comma right after “while” like this? No. There’s no comma there. Okay.
What is another difference? Well, “meanwhile” is followed by a subject. What’s a subject? “I”, “you”, “she”, “he”, “they”, “we”, “the dog”, “the cat”, these are all subjects. So if we look at “meanwhile” – jump to this side -, so: “Mom worked all day. Meanwhile, I”… “I” is a subject. So we have subject, and then the verb: “I was”, “Meanwhile, she was”, “Meanwhile, he ate a sandwich”, “Meanwhile, we went the mall.” So you always need a subject after “meanwhile”.
With “while”, it’s a little different. You can have a subject, like for example: “While you sang, I took pictures.” So here you have your subject. But it’s not always necessary. Often times, “while” is followed by a verb with “ing”. Here’s an example: “Every day, I eat breakfast while reading the newspaper.” There’s no subject, it’s just I know that it’s talking about “I”, you don’t have to repeat the “I”. So “while” can be followed by verb-“ing”. I could also say: “While reading the newspaper, I ate breakfast.” Okay? So these are some more differences.
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