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I found that "in the meanwhile" is correct, although it is strange for native!

  1. This expression can be used instead of "in the meantime"?
  2. If the "in the meanwhile/ meantime" use in the initial of a sentence, the punctuation of "," should be used immediately after that? what about in the middle of a sentence?
  3. What formal expression can be used instead of them?
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This is from Merriam Webster's discussion of these phrases:

Meanwhile and meantime can both be nouns or adverbs and are interchangeable. "Meantime" is more frequently seen as a noun, in the phrases "in the meantime" and "for the meantime." "Meanwhile" is usually seen as an adverb, such as in "meanwhile, back at the farm."

If you follow the link you'll find a thorough discussion, which explains how long they've been around (700 years!) and how their use has changed. The most helpful bit is this:

But if you want to use this pair of words in the ways they're most often used and need help remembering which goes where, you can think of this sentence:

In the time it takes to say "in the meantime," you could just as well say "meanwhile."

The specific difference in meaning is this, from English Current:

In the meantime AND meanwhile both can mean in the time between two events/times. Meanwhile can also mean at the same time (as another event/action).

As for punctuation, it is probably good to follow with a comma, either at the beginning or end, but it's not necessarily required; it will depend on the structure and flow of your sentence.

I'm not really aware of a more formal expression. You could try to make a more formal statement of either meaning, of course, by adding more context, but it would merely tend to make it wordier, without making it more clear.

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    I'm glad this points out that "in the meantime" can usually just be replaced by "meanwhile" on it's own. That was immediately what I thought when I read the question. – JMac Apr 23 '20 at 15:06
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    The phrase in the meanwhile is much less common than it used to be. I would think its usage now would be either affected or deliberate to evoke an old-timey feel (ie: might fit in dialogue written for a Hobbit or set in Victorian England) – J... Apr 23 '20 at 17:40
  • I'd be interested to know why my formatting was changed; was there something wrong with it? I intended to set off the direct quotes from other sources to distinguish them from my own words. – Fremont the boy bug Apr 23 '20 at 18:42
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    There is a specific format option to specify quotations, which is what @AsteroidsWithWings changed it to. – GalacticCowboy Apr 23 '20 at 20:08
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    Per "How to Format" in the instructions alongside the post box, "quote by placing > at start of line". – Asteroids With Wings Apr 24 '20 at 10:03
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this expression can be used instead of "in the meantime"??

Generally, no (at least in U.S. English). Meanwhile and meantime can each be used as a noun or as an adverb, so I can understand why they seem interchangeable. I rarely see "meanwhile" used as a noun, however. But this question has nothing to do with the phrase being grammatically correct or not.

Instead it is because meanwhile isn't used that way in everyday communication, and sounds strange to a native speaker. If you were in some region where in the meanwhile were the preferred phrase, you would want to always say that instead of in the meantime. But a region like that would be unusual, according to an ngram search:

At the beginning of a sentence (based on capitalization):

In the meantime

In the meanwhile

After the beginning of a sentence (based on capitalization):

in the meantime

in the meanwhile


If the ""in the meanwhile/ meantime" use in the initial of a sentence, the punctuation of "," should be used immediately after that? what about in the middle of a sentence?

It will depend on how the phrases are used, and how formally correct you need to be, but the answer is probably "yes, you should follow the phrase with a comma".

If you are using one of these as a preposition, which is a common case in which the phrase would be at the beginning of a sentence, using a comma is appropriate but will probably not cause you problems if you do not use one:

In the meantime, you can read a magazine.

In the meantime you can read a magazine.

If you're using the phrase as an appositive, a comma is definitely going to be expected:

Your car will be fixed in an hour but, in the meantime, you can read one of our magazines.

Similar to the preposition, you will probably not have problems if you leave the comma after the phrase out, but the appositive is demonstrated more clearly in writing with the comma included.


what formal expression can be used instead of them?

I'm not sure how formal an expression you want, but any expression which indicates that

  • Some amount of time will need to pass until some event, and
  • That something else can be done until that event

will be fine. Some options might include:

While you're waiting

Until [time or event] (like, "until then" or "until dinner is ready")

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