Italian Language/use of "mentre"

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Question
Dear Maria,

Can you please help me to understand why it is incorrect to use the conjunction “mentre” in the following sentence:

Il contesto di questo conversazione è che Gabriella e Piero sono a Torino e stanno guardando una mappa dell’Italia mentre organizzando un viaggio.
[The context of this conversation is that Gabriella and Piero are in Turin and looking at a map of Italy while planning a trip]

I understand that writing -  “Il contesto della conversazione è che Gabriella e Piero sono a Torino e stanno guardando una mappa dell’Italia nell’intento di organizzare un viaggio” is the correct way to write this sentence, but I am trying to understand if using “mentre” is at all acceptable in this sentence.

I was trying to use “mentre” like “while” is used in English.  Can you also please tell me if the subordinating conjunction “mentre” can be used the same as  the English subordinating conjunction “while”.    I was thinking that they are both used to  indicate a period of time.

Thank you for your help.

Very Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich,

first of all  the subordinate clause “mentre organizzando un viaggio” is wrong, since you should have written “mentre stanno organizzando un viaggio”.
In fact, the subordinating temporal conjunction “mentre” must be followed by an indicative, not a gerund by itself.
Therefore, if you want to use the conjunction “mentre”, the correct sentence must be:”Il contesto di questa conversazione è che Gabriella e Piero sono a Torino e stanno guardando una mappa dell’Italia mentre stanno organizzando un viaggio”.

As you can see, it is acceptable to say:” Il contesto di questa conversazione è che Gabriella e Piero sono a Torino e stanno guardando una mappa dell’Italia mentre stanno organizzando un viaggio” as well as  “Il contesto della conversazione è che Gabriella e Piero sono a Torino e stanno guardando una mappa dell’Italia nell’intento di organizzare un viaggio”.

But it was a mistake to say "mentre organizzando un viaggio" instead of "mentre stanno organizzando un viaggio".


To conclude, you  certainly can  use “mentre” like “while” is used in English, since  the subordinating conjunction “mentre” can be used the same as  the English subordinating conjunction “while”, as  they are both used to  indicate a period of time, but  you have to bear in mind that “mentre” must be followed by an indicative mood as in: “Mentre tu parli, io ti ascolto”, “Mentre stavamo passeggiando, incontrammo un nostro amico”, “Ti ho visto, mentre stavi partendo per Firenze”, etc.

Kind regards,
Maria

Italian Language

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Maria

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Italian is my mother tongue and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning Italian Language.

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Over 25 years teaching experience.

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I received my Ph.D.in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

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