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I wonder which choice works and which doesn't work in each example and why?

  1. Jim went to answer the phone. ............., Nancy started to prepare lunch.

a. meanwhile
b. in the meantime
c. at the same time

  1. You go to do the shoping. ................., I'll clean the house.

a. meanwhile
b. in the meantime
c. at the same time

I think, in example #1, choices "a" and "c" and for the example #2, the choice "b" work. This is because to me, "meanwhile" in this sense is interchangeable with "at the same time". In addition, "meanwhile" is used when we are talking about the past events, whereas "in the meantime" is future-oriented.

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  1. Jim went to answer the phone. ............., Nancy started to prepare lunch.

For this one, all three work:

  • Jim went to answer the phone. Meanwhile, Nancy started to prepare lunch.
  • Jim went to answer the phone. In the meantime, Nancy started to prepare lunch.
  • Jim went to answer the phone. At the same time, Nancy started to prepare lunch.

  1. You go to do the shopping. ................., I'll clean the house.

And for this one, only the first two work, really.

  • You go to do the shopping. Meanwhile, I'll clean the house.
  • You go to do the shopping. In the meantime, I'll clean the house.

Meanwhile and in the meantime are generally synonymous.

I believe at the same time doesn't work for the second one because no one says that. It's not felicitous. It's possible – definitely grammatical – but unheard of, at least in my non-native opinion. It works in the first sentence because it's a narration and you can be as factual-sounding as you want there, for lack of a better explanation.

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Some people have strong opinions about the choice of these expressions. But in reality, all three are used interchangeably and it's a matter of style and personal preference.

Here is a longer discussion of this topic, and another one, from credible sources.

Excerpts from these sources:

Meanwhile and meantime can both be nouns or adverbs and are interchangeable.

And

Use the adverb meanwhile to mean "at the same time."

Having said that, my own preference for the sentences in question would be either "meanwhile" or "in the meantime", because in both cases (and especially in the second one) there is an implication of until some other thing is completed. The phrase "at the same time" does not convey this notion.

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