______ understaffed and under tight budget, 911 centers are struggling to adequately provide emergency assistance to the citizens.

There are four choices to fill in the blank:

  1. Yet
  2. Meanwhile
  3. But
  4. Although

After considering the meaning of the sentence, I chose "meanwhile" to fill in the blank, but the book which I am using chose "although". Therefore, I am kind of confused here because I think we just use "although" when there are two contradictory sentences or ideas. So, could someone please help me to explain the problem here?

  • 4
    The "..." is presumably the placeholder. I don't like any of the options here. Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 20:27
  • 2
    The problem as I see it is that none of those 4 words work. What would work is something like "Because they are...". If something along those lines was in the list of options there'd be no issue. Or if it said "managing" instead of "struggling". So yes there's a problem with the question, but it's not necessarily that there is relevant context missing.
    – Rupe
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 20:41
  • 4
    Although works just fine: Although understaffed and under tight budget, 911 centers are struggling to adequately provide emergency assistance to the citizens. (That simply means "Even though they are understaffed..."). This looks like an English Language Learners question to me. I suggest the moderators migrate it there, or the O.P. check out that community.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 20:48
  • 1
    This is pretty typical of many questions we get here. There's a test, or a textbook, or a homework assignment, based one The One Correct Answer, and of course it's bullshit. So somebody is trying to make sense out of it. Good for them. But Garbage in produces garbage out. Try to explain to the OQ that (a) wherever that question came from, it's not a good place to be, and it's wrong, and (b) in order to ask someone a question about a language, there must be a lot of context given. Just asking the question like you might ask your rommate doing homework will not generate an answer. Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 20:55
  • 2
    @J.R. Although grammatical with "although" at the start, the sentence struggles to make sense. Unless, that is, one expects understaffed centres to perform well.
    – Rupe
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 20:58

2 Answers 2


I think that the poster's supposedly wrong answer would work fine under two conditions: (1) the poster is allowed to add a comma after "Meanwhile"; and (2) the sentence in question, rather than having fallen out of the blue, blue sky, appears in the context of a preceding sentence that says something to set up the contrast that "Meanwhile" attempts to convey.

For example:

New York City's innovative, privately operated Puppy Ambulance service caters exclusively to AKC-registered blue-blood canines in distress, for pet-loving citizens who can afford the steep fees involved. Meanwhile, understaffed and under tight budget, 911 centers are struggling to adequately provide emergency assistance to the citizens.

It wouldn't be hard to set up similar similar contexts that made the "Yet" and "But" options perfectly reasonable, as well.

I suspect, however, that the test deviser intended to set up a situation where no prior context is allowed, and where the sentence must make sense without reference to anything outside the included wording plus the optional opening word. In that case, as J.R. indicates in a couple of comments beneath the original question, "Although" is the only arguably satisfactory choice.

But the test deviser severely undercuts the sentence's independent readability by referring at the end of it to "the citizens" (rather than simply to "citizens")—as though the reader has already been introduced to these particular individuals. As devised, the sentence invites the test taker to assume that outside context exists for "the citizens" but then punishes the test taker for assuming that outside context also exists for a transitional word such as "Meanwhile" or "But." You can't have it both ways—unless you're the test deviser and you make all the rules yourself.

No wonder the poster was confused by this test question. Bad job, test deviser!


Although is the only one of the four which is a subordinating conjunction. Without it, the relationship of the first clause to the following sentence is unclear.

  • Although doesn't really work, though. If you read the sentence literally with although, it says that the centers are struggling despite the fact that they are understaffed and underfunded. But presumably they're struggling because they are understaffed and underfunded. This kind of grammatical mistake doesn't belong on an English text. Commented Jun 29, 2014 at 13:59
  • I agree that it doesn't make a lot of sense. But it's the only one that works syntactically.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jun 29, 2014 at 20:37

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