I wrote this sentence in another post of mine, and some advised me not to use meanwhile in this case. Why? Doesn't meanwhile mean at the same time?

Education expenditure was highest in India at 15%, followed by 13% in Thailand. Meanwhile, the figures for the remaining countries were around 7%.

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    The literal sense at the same time wouldn't really add anything in your context, but by extension it often has the sense on the other hand, by contrast, and yet,... which "kinda" makes sense. There's a significant contrast between the average of the top two being twice that of the rest. But I see you've changed the numbers from your previous post, so it now does make more sense to contrast them in this way. Whatever - it's all inconclusive "writing advice" at this level. Commented Jun 12 at 2:41
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    Does this answer your question? How to use "average" as a verb? Commented Jun 12 at 2:41
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    @FumbleFingers that's my own post, so no it doesn't. I did ask them why meanwhile wasn't good, but no one answered, so I had to post a new question. Commented Jun 12 at 4:27
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    @Mari-LouA Thanks, I've fixed them all. By the way, do you have any idea why my post was downvoted? I don't mind the downvote; I just don't want to ask a bad question. Commented Jun 12 at 4:42
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    Note that as Lambie correctly pointed out All your sentences are grammatically and semantically fine. But that's several people saying that stylistically we don't think much of including the word meanwhile. Commented Jun 12 at 10:41

9 Answers 9


“Meanwhile” is a filler-word here

The use of “Meanwhile” doesn’t add anything to the sentence: it means “at the same time”, but when comparing figures from a single report like this it is a given that they come from the same data-set and are thus for the same period of time. Rewrite the two sentence without “meanwhile”, and you lose nothing:

Education expenditure was highest in India at 15%, followed by 13% in Thailand. The figures for the remaining countries were around 7%.

If you have a point to make, make it

The previous text is quite neutral: it presents the information but doesn’t guide the reader toward the point you wish to convey. If the interesting point was that India/Thailand spend far more on education than their peers, then be more explicit:

Education expenditure was highest in India at 15%, followed by 13% in Thailand. In contrast, the figures for the remaining countries were around 7%.

Better yet, tie these together in one sentence:

Education expenditure was highest in India at 15%, followed by 13% in Thailand - far more than the average for the remaining countries, which was 7%.

I’m assuming the 7% is an average, but that brings up another point...

Avoid vague terms. If you are reporting figures, be precise

What does “around 7%” mean? Is this an average of the remaining countries’ figures? If one was 12%, one 7% and another 2%, you’d still get an average of 7%, but that would undermine what I assume your point is: that Thailand and India spend much more than their peers. Or does it mean that the rest of the countries’s expenditure figures clustered around 7% (still an average, but lower deviation)?

If you’re trying to say that Thailand and India’s spending is far higher than that of the rest of their peers, then choose the highest of the peers, and re-write to say so.

Education expenditure was highest in India at 15%, followed by 13% in Thailand. None of the remaining countries spent more than 7.5%

(assuming that 7.5% was the highest of the other nations’ spending)

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    This is really eye-opening. I've seen essay samples where the authors wrote in these ways before but I didn't follow them because somehow, I always felt like I needed to link my sentences with adverbs such as meanwhile, similarly, conversely,.... It turns out I don't need to. Thanks a lot for the tips. Commented Jun 13 at 15:14
  • @AnIELTSLearner What you describe is French style.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 14 at 16:45

meanwhile is a rather simplistic narrative segue. It is used to say that one action was happening at the same time as another.

The Lollipop Gang were sitting in the corner of the seedy bar, plotting their next heist. Meanwhile, back at headquarters, Sergeant Smithers was looking for a pattern in their five previous robberies.

But it isn't only the register that is inappropriate for a dry discussion of expenditures on education; the main objection is that the percentages are not happening in time but are the result of a retrospective analysis. There is no "while".

Someone may counter this objection by saying that meanwhile there is just a way of saying "If we turn our attention to the remaining countries". But you don't need to use a segue with something that isn't going to be a new focus of discussion, something that was tacked on as an afterthought merely for the sake of not ignoring it entirely:

Meanwhile, the figures for the remaining countries were around 7%.

The remaining countries spent around 7%.

Better than a clumsy segue would be to replace remaining with a descriptive phrase that characterizes these remaining countries that spend relatively little on education, perhaps something about the size of their populations or the makeup of their GDP.

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    @Mari-LouA This is not an exam prep site. It's a site about learning English. That said, I don't think the advice I've given is irrelevant in an exam context.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 12 at 10:55
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    I like the option of just dropping the "meanwhile". It doesn't seem to be doing anything useful here, at least not in the kind of context that I infer from the sentences overall. Perhaps "remaining" could be elaborated, as this answer suggests, but would be nice and tight standing on its own. Only if I wanted to highlight some particular distinction between the remaining countries and the two designated by name would I consider such an elaboration. Commented Jun 12 at 13:45
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    @TimR I can't support this answer. Hard facts, (1) in the original example sentence, "meanwhile" is absolutely correct in all ways, as the sentence is "time-based", the sentence does literally mean meanwhile; it's not even that meanwhile is being used in the figurative sense, which brings us to point (2) even if used figuratively (see more in point 3), it is incredibly common to use meanwhile in such sentences, it's so common it's beyond "idiomatic", it's just normal usage. Sure, I'm still telling people YOU ARE NOT USING APOCRYPHAL PROPERLY but eventually it is "correct". Point (3),
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 12 at 14:30
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    meanwhile doesn't couple well with a context that doesn't involve unfolding events but is a retrospective recap and analysis.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 12 at 15:06
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    @Mari-LouA I don't have access to the paywalled OED. But this is not a question that you can answer simply by consulting a definition. It has to do with aspect. meanwhile is a segue from one set of unfolding events to another set of unfolding events that are happening (or were happening) simultaneously with the first set of events. If you establish a context using, say, the past perfect, which is not about unfolding events but about events that have completed, there is nothing to be simultaneous with. Hence my example of the 1964 baseball season homerun totals after the season.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 12 at 17:44

Speaking as someone who grew up in America and has been speaking English for 60 years ... I don't see anything wrong with the use of "meanwhile" here. It makes perfect sense in context. You'd have to ask the person or people who objected what they saw wrong with it. I'm guessing their objection is something very subjective.

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    Well, I've summarised the comment-based objections from four of us on the previous question regarding the word meanwhile. Nobody suggested it was "incorrect"; we just thought (possibly for different reasons) that it was stylistically weak. It seemed that the OP didn't understand, but since that wasn't the primary focus of the question it wasn't important. We all gave at least some indication of why we didn't like the usage in the exact context, and @TimR has gone much further in an actual answer here. But it's all just stylistic choice and preference, not really important. Commented Jun 12 at 10:51
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    @Fattie: The reason you think meanwhile is "aggressive", "insider", "knowledgeable" is precisely because when used in the on the other hand rather than the at the same time, it often carries the strong implication that there is a contrast, but morally there shouldn't be. We never saw the chart that OP's sentence was supposed to be succinctly summarizing, and the figures originally quoted looked implausible to me, but my thinking was Castigating "the remaining countries" for spending less than India and Thailand on education is stylistically inappropriate here. Commented Jun 12 at 15:36
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    ...a typical context being Violent crime increased by 10% last year. Meanwhile, the government didn't even increase spending on the police by enough to offset inflation. But stylistic choices at this level are hardly relevant to the average learner. Commented Jun 12 at 15:39
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    @FumbleFingers - I do agree with your examples, and the particular spin you put on the sound of the word. Regarding the education expenditure, I did not in the slightest read them as real countries; I read it as "X spends 15 and Y spends 14 - meanwhile, the rest spend a pittance, and they wonder why they are illiterate." Exactly as you ay its' a smarmy (shmarmy?) way to put a serious issue.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 12 at 23:03
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    GRAMMATICALLY, linguistically, and logically, "meanwhile" is perfectly valid here. If you don't like some subtle implication, that's not a language question but a diplomacy question. But in any case, in the absence of larger context, I don't see how you can assume that "meanwhile" means "... and that's why they're illiterate boobs". It could just as well mean "wow these folks spend way more than others to get the same result, how inefficient". Or "these countries face particular challenges that make education more expensive". Or probably other interpretations.
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 13 at 4:16

Your use of the word "meanwhile" is certainly not incorrect. To a native English speaker, it might just feel a little out of place in your sentence. Since there doesn't seem to be a consensus on this page as to exactly why, I'll add my opinion: "meanwhile" is often used to signal a change of topic, which isn't what you're doing here. When you say

"(sentence 1). Meanwhile, (sentence 2)."

The reader instinctively thinks that you're done talking about the context of sentence 1 for a while. In your case, both sentences are contributing (I assume) to the same idea and are closely related. The reader feels a little jarred because you hinted at a transition that never came.
One other thing to note: it is very common to hear advice along the lines of "Your sentence still makes sense if you remove (some word or phrase), therefore you should remove it". In some settings where conciseness is key, it might really be worthwhile to trim out everything that isn't strictly necessary. But often you have a little more freedom, even in moderately formal writing. Don't be afraid of adding the occasional word just for flavor and style.


Other answers give lots of details, but an important high-level point that should be said clearly: From an ELL point of view, your use of meanwhile is absolutely fine! Your example is completely natural and idiomatic — out of context, I wouldn’t suspect it was from a non-native speaker. Any objections to meanwhile here are just at the level of style, not linguistic correctness. As other answers explain, it’s arguably not a good stylistic choice — it’s a commonly overused filler word, and can sometimes be ambiguous or misleading.


The term "meanwhile" is generally used with "action" verbs. The sentence could sensibly read, e.g.

India spent 15% on education--the highest of any country--while Thailand spent 13%. Meanwhile, other countries spent an average of around 7%.

While there might be some constructs where "meanwhile" could be used with linking verbs, it's far more often used with action verbs. Even if things aren't changing, saying "Meanwhile, the temperature outside remained above 40C" would read much more naturally than "Meanwhile, the temperature outside was above 40C".


I wouldn't actually say it's inadvisable. As others have said, it's mostly a filler word, which might easily be deleted:

Education expenditure was highest in India at 15%, followed by 13% in Thailand. The figures for the remaining countries were around 7%.

"Meanwhile" carries a very slight implication of "In contrast" which is probably what I'd use if I meant to contrast two countries with high percentages against the rest of the group.


All these answers and not one contains a single reference to a dictionary. The adverb in the OP's sentence is perfectly acceptable. The error lies in the interpretation of its meaning, in the OP's example it is not "at the same time" rather its meaning is used to contrast two situations, comparable to "on the other hand".

Oxford Learners Dictionary

3. used to compare two aspects of a situation
Stress can be extremely damaging to your health. Exercise, meanwhile, can reduce its effects.

Collins Dictionary

You use meanwhile to introduce a different aspect of a particular situation, especially one that is completely opposite to the one previously mentioned.

  • Almost four million households are in debt to their energy company. Meanwhile, suppliers' profits have doubled.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

3. used to compare two things, especially if they are completely different and are happening at the same time

  • The incomes of male professionals went up by almost 80%. Meanwhile, part-time women workers saw their earnings fall.


3. In contrast to aspects previously mentioned.
Synonyms: at the same time, on the other hand

  • Some songs on the album are beautiful. Meanwhile, others are quite forgettable.

Oxford English Dictionary
(Unfortunately, the rest of the entry is behind a paywall)

1597– meanwhile, n. & adv. In adversative or concessive use: nevertheless, still; on the other hand. Cf. sense A.1b.


one more thing... it's usually at the same specific time

I feel like the other answers have only hinted at this, so let me add that
the reason it is out of place is that it

  • typically refers to the same, specific, small period of time,
  • where that connection is meaningful to those involved
  • and brings some tension to the reader.

A broad range like a year or a fiscal quarter is not where "meanwhile" is used.

It's more like
"Person A was hurrying to complete their task.
Meanwhile, Person B [at the exact same moment] was trying to prevent them from succeeding"

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