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Meanwhile vs. meantime

Are they really the same? I've been using them interchangeably...

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In the meantime, in between time ... ain't we got fun? –  Joe Blow Jul 5 '11 at 23:41

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The dictionary will tell you that they are synonymous; I will tell you that "meanwhile" is more common than "meantime", unless you say "in the meantime".

Meanwhile

I would use "meanwhile", but "in the meantime" is a close second, with "meantime" dead last, in my opinion. (As you can see, "meantime" used to be as popular as "in the meantime", but now, it occurs more than ten times less.)

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Have you ever seen "meantime" used in such a sentence without the phrase "in the meantime"? –  edA-qa mort-ora-y Jul 5 '11 at 14:34
    
@edA-qa: Yes, I have, but rarely. –  Daniel Jul 5 '11 at 14:36
    
hm, I don't think your construct 'but [expr]' is fair to the lone 'meantime'; compare this ngrams.googlelabs.com/… (for my red graph to be meaningful subtract the value of blue one from it) - I think it proves that it does influence the stats very much. –  Unreason Jul 5 '11 at 14:40
    
@unreason. How's my edit? It makes sure that "Meantime" is not included in "In the meantime", and instead of adding a word, it makes sure the expression comes at the beginning of a sentence, where it is more fair. –  Daniel Jul 5 '11 at 14:44
    
@drm65, +1that seems more comparable, but I would still note that ngrams.googlelabs.com/… shows higher frequency of meantime vs meanwhile overall; re usage see google.com/… - you might have to dig a bit, but there are nice examples –  Unreason Jul 5 '11 at 14:57

Dictionary.com indicates that both words can be used as either a noun or adverb, but I've only heard meanwhile used as an adverb and meantime used as a noun.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch John was saddling up his horse.

My plane doesn't leave for another two hours, in the meantime I'll grab a bite to eat and catch up on some reading.

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I've no proof that other people do this, but I certainly use "meanwhile" to mean during the occurrence of some other event, but "meantime" to mean until the occurrence of some other event. So "Meanwhile, back at the ranch John was saddling up his horse" -- while you are doing whatever you're doing, John is saddling; but "My plane doesn't leave for another two hours, in the meantime I'll grab a bite to eat and catch up on some reading." -- in the time gap until the plane leaves, I'll have lunch.

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