The agreement of tenses with mentre and intanto che

Mentre and intanto che express two actions taking place simultaneously and mean “while”. They're synonyms of e allo stesso tempo (and at the same time) and nel frattempo (in the meantime). 

  • In the present: present + intanto che/mentre (while) + present.

Carlotta cucina, intanto che/mentre ascolta la musica. 

Carlotta cooks while she listens to music.

  • In the past: imperfect / perfect tense + intanto che/mentre (while) + imperfect.

Parlavo al telefono, intanto che/mentre guidavo.

I was talking on the phone while I was driving.

Ho visto Mattia, intanto che/mentre passeggiavo al parco.

I saw Mattia while I was walking in the park.

  • In the future: future tense + intanto che/mentre (while) + present.

Controllerò la tua borsa, intanto che/mentre vai in bagno. 

I will watch your bag while you go to the bathroom. 

Note: intanto che can express the fact that one action depends on another, in which case it's synonymous with finché (as long as).

  • in the present: present tense + intanto che + present.

Esco intanto che/finché c’è bel tempo.

I'm going out while/for as long as the weather is good, literally, “…while/as long as there is good weather”.

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