Mentre vs durante: Meaning
In Italian, we have two main words to talk about actions that happen at the same time: the conjunction mentre (while) and the preposition durante (during).
These words express contemporaneity and are used to describe events that take place simultaneously.
- Ascolto la musica mentre corro.
I listen to music while I run.
- A volte dormo durante il giorno.
Sometimes I sleep during the day.
Mentre vs durante: Explained
Mentre is a conjunction, and it can be used to describe simultaneous events that happen in the present, past or future. Mentre always links two clauses and it usually appears before a verb.
Mentre + verb
- Mentre cammino mi piace fischiettare.
I like to whistle while I walk.
- Ti aspetto qui mentre vai in banca.
I’ll wait for you here while you go to the bank.
Durante is a preposition used to indicate that something is happening at the same time as an event. It is not used to link two clauses, but it usually precedes a noun or pronoun (the event), to state that something is happening simultaneously to that event.
Durante + noun
- Ho letto durante tutto il volo.
I read during the whole flight.
- Non mangio mai durante le riunioni.
I never eat during meetings.
Mentre: Another meaning
Be careful though!
Sometimes mentre can have a different meaning. This conjunction is also widely used with a connotation of contrast.
Have a look at the examples below, they have nothing to do with time and contemporaneity!
- Io voglio uscire, mentre lui vuole stare a casa.
I want to go out, whereas he wants to stay in.
- Giorgio dice che ci sarà il sole, mentre io credo che pioverà.
Giorgio says it will be sunny, while I think it will rain.
In this case, mentre has a similar meaning to the conjunctions invece (instead) or ma (but), expressing contrast.
Mentre vs durante: Examples
Have a look at these examples of the use of mentre and durante (careful, the last one is not about two simultaneous actions!)
- Qualcuno ti ha chiamato mentre dormivi.
Someone called you while you were sleeping.
- Mentre vai a fare la spesa io preparo il pranzo.
While you go shopping I will cook lunch.
- Spero di riuscire a dormire durante il viaggio.
I hope I will be able to sleep during the trip.
- Ho provato a concentrarmi durante la lezione, ma ero troppo stanca.
I tried to concentrate during the lesson, but I was too tired.
- Mio fratello vuole mangiare la pizza stasera, mentre io preferirei una zuppa.
My brother wants to have pizza tonight, while I would prefer a soup.
Audio lessons to practice mentre
To practice mentre, take Lesson 105 of the Italian audio course “Ripeti con me!“.
It’s a collection of useful exercises to master Italian grammar naturally.
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