“MENTRE la festa” or “DURANTE la festa”? “MENTRE facevo” or “DURANTE facevo”? In this lesson we will be talking about MENTRE and DURANTE, two terms that people often confuse with each other, but that are actually used in rather different ways! Let’s shed some light on their differences together…
MENTRE has several meanings and uses, but each one of them is always followed by a verb.
1 – TEMPORAL meaning
In this case, MENTRE has the meaning of “at a time when, while”.
Therefore, it indicates an action (expressed by a verb) that takes place at the same time as another action (expressed by another verb).
Such actions can occur in the present, past or future.
Let’s see some examples:
Mentre faccio la doccia, ascolto la musica. (“I listen to music while I shower.“)
In this sentence, both actions occur in the present. The term MENTRE means that the action of “listening to music” takes place at the same time as “taking a shower”.
Domani, mentre io lavorerò, tu pulirai tutta la casa. Non te ne dimenticare! (“Tomorrow I will work while you clean the entire house. Do not forget!”)
In this sentence, both actions will take place in the future. The word MENTRE means that the action of “working” will occur at the same time as the action of “cleaning the house”.
Questa mattina, mentre facevo la doccia, è andata via l’acqua. (“This morning, the water stopped running while I was taking a shower.”)
In both of these sentences, the two actions have taken place in the past. Speaking of past, it is imperative that we make a clarification!
As a matter of fact, when MENTRE connects two past actions, we can have two different cases:
1. MENTRE + imperfetto, imperfetto
In this case, both verbs are in the past tense if the two actions happen simultaneously (i.e., at the same time), and continue without one interfering with the other. For example:
“Questa mattina, mentre Paola preparava il pranzo, io facevo shopping su LearnAmo Collection.” – Here both the verb “preparare” (to make) and the verb “fare” (to do) have been conjugated at the past tense (imperfetto i.e., imperfect) because the two actions take place at the same time.
2. MENTRE + imperfetto, passato prossimo
We can also find sentences in which there are two actions that do NOT happen simultaneously, e.g., if there is an action that continues overtime and another one that interrupts said action at a given time – in this case the situation changes. MENTRE, followed by a verb at the imperfect tense, expresses an action that continues over time, whereas the action that interrupts the first one is expressed by a verb in the past tense (Passato Prossimo, i.e., Present Perfect). For instance:
Questa mattina, mentre facevo la doccia, è andata via l’acqua. — In this case, the action of “taking a shower” (the action after MENTRE, therefore expressed by the verb at the imperfect tense) is interrupted by the second one, that is the fact that the water stopped running (which is, therefore, expressed by the Present Perfect).
2 – ADVERSATIVE meaning
In this instance, MENTRE has the meaning of “instead, whereas, on the contrary”, meaning that it expresses something that is opposed to what has been said previously.
Hai voluto fare di testa tua, mentre avresti fatto meglio ad ascoltare i miei consigli. ( “You wanted to do it on your own, whereas you would have been better off listening to my advice.”)
Mio fratello è vegano, mentre io mangio qualsiasi cosa! (“My brother is vegan, whereas I eat anything!”)
In this case, MENTRE can be strengthened by adding the adverb invece, which does NOT change the meaning of the sentence.
Che bello! Sono arrivate le cose che avevo ordinato su Amazon! Le aspettavo domani, mentre invece sono arrivate oggi! (“How nice! The things I had ordered on Amazon have arrived! I was expecting them to arrive tomorrow, but they have arrived today instead !)
3 – MEANWHILE/IN THAT MOMENT
In this case, MENTRE is located within a fixed expression, “IN QUEL MENTRE”, which has the meaning of “precisely at the same time, right at that moment“.
Stavo facendo colazione tranquillamente e in quel mentre ho avuto l’ispirazione per la mia prossima poesia. (“I was having breakfast peacefully and right at that moment I had the inspiration for my next poem.”)
One frequently asked question concerning MENTRE is…
is MENTRE followed by CHE?
Well, it was in the past.
In fact, Dante wrote:
Mentre che l’uno spirto questo disse, l’altro piangea. (“While one spirit said this, the other one cried”)
It is not used in in the current Italian, though. We can find it only in regional and in popular varieties:
Nel mentre che rientravo è iniziato a piovere. (“It started raining while I was returning.”)
DURANTE gets often confused with MENTRE for its temporal meaning.
In fact, DURANTE too indicates an action that takes place at the same time as another one.
What is the difference compared to MENTRE, then?
DURANTE is always followed by a noun: it is never used with a verb!
It means “during the course of/throughout, in the time to”.
Durante la festa, ho conosciuto 5 nuove persone! (“At/during the party I have met 5 new people!”)
Durante i mesi invernali, indosso sempre dei fiori per ricordarmi della primavera! (“During/throughout the winter months, I always wear floral clothes to remind myself of spring!”)
Ho pianto un sacco durante il film “The Best of Me” di Nicholas Sparks! (“I cried a lot during/throughout the film ‘The Best of Me’ by Nicholas Sparks!”)
If you want to keep studying words that might confuse those who learn Italian, I suggest you go watch the lesson on the differences between PRIMA vs DOPO in Italian!