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I am a bit confused on how to use "meanwhile". I know you can use it as a connector. Meanwhile, I did not notice

I see dictionary.com says:

noun

  1. meantime.

adverb

  1. in the intervening time; during the interval.

  2. at the same time: Meanwhile, the others were back home enjoying themselves.

I assume this is fine:

Let's have a beer. Meanwhile, they will be playing tennis

But I wonder, can you use it like this?

Let's have a beer meanwhile they play tennis

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    No, in that case it is "let's have a beer while they play tennis".
    – user26236
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 12:46
  • @JustinYoung thanks! So "meanwhile" is to be used just in the beginning of a sentence?
    – fedorqui
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 12:55
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    No, meanwhile can be used in the middle of a sentence. It just has a different meaning to while.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 12:57
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    You can say that but it would be unusual for a native speaker to say it. A more plausible sentence would be Let's have a beer, and meanwhile they play tennis.
    – user20792
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 13:03
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    This is a really good question. As a native speaker, I know that you can't use while and meanwhile in the same way, but it's very hard for me to explain exactly why.
    – stangdon
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 15:25

3 Answers 3

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As the Lucian Sava pointed meanwhile is an adverb, here I want to point a difference in their usage and meaning.

According to Longman:

while : during the time that you are doing something, or something is happening.

meanwhile : at the same time as something else is happening.

As you see, meanwhile is used for two concurrent activities:

Let's have a beer. Meanwhile, they will be playing tennis.

Let's have a beer, and meanwhile they will be playing tennis.

In the sentence above both activities are important to be mentioned. You inform the hearer about two activities.

but while is used to focus on one activity that is happening during another activity.

Let's have a beer while they play tennis.

In the sentence above you mainly want to say "let's have a bear", but you also add that you do this while they play tennis.

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    You know what? Let's not have a bear.
    – Kyle Hale
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 17:24
  • @KyleHale Sorry! I didn't get your sentence! is it a kidding?!
    – Ahmad
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 17:45
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    I think he's referring to the fact that the last sentence in your answer uses 'bear' in the quote instead of 'beer'.
    – user25309
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 18:17
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    And just FYI, it's "are you kidding" or "was that a joke", as opposed to "is it a kidding".
    – user26236
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 22:44
  • @Texenox lol, right!! however, bears are nice too.
    – Ahmad
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 6:24
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As regards your first example:

Let's have a beer. Meanwhile, they will be playing tennis.

your assumption is correct. There are two distinct clauses, meanwhile is correctly used as an adverb.

In your second example:

Let's have a beer meanwhile they play tennis.

the use of meanwhile is incorrect. The two clauses should be separated by a subordinate conjunction that introduces the subordinate clause. Obviously this conjunction, in this context, is while. This said, the correct sentence would be:

Let's have a beer while they play tennis.

However, as User1 pointed out in their comment:

Let's have a beer and meanwhile, they play tennis.

is also correct. Here, the two clauses joined by the conjunction and are both independent clauses, where meanwhile is again correctly used as an adverb.

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    'Let's have a beer, and meanwhile they play tennis.' Shouldn't that be 'and meanwhile, they'll play tennis"?
    – Kevin
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 18:13
  • I think you're right: 2. Use commas after introductory a) clauses, b) phrases, or c) words that come before the main clause, @Kevin. :) Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 18:43
  • I was actually talking about they play vs they'll play. Adding the comma was an unconscious correction.
    – Kevin
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 20:24
  • @Kevin Since Lucian Sava is referring to my comment, I'll reaffirm that either they play or they'll play works. They'll would probably be more common in this context, but they is also possible.
    – user20792
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 20:32
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    That last sentence still sounds awkward to me as a native speaker. I can't put my finger on why it sounds wrong, though. Is it correct to use that tense of "play" to describe an ongoing action? "Will be playing" or "are playing" make it sound more natural to me.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 23:21
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The current answers explain it better in the English-grammar sense, but I thought this example may help clarify some confusion on how a native speaker means to use it.

"meanwhile", is used as a short form of "in the mean-time".
Restated: "during that [difference of] time"


Let's have a beer. [meanwhile / during that time], they will be playing tennis

Let's have a beer during that time they play tennis. - stringed together fragments, doesn't work

Let's have a beer and [meanwhile / during that time], they will play tennis. Technically works - but "Let's have a beer while they play tennis" still sounds better because it is easier to phrase and shorter.

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