The word Mientras can be an adverb or conjunction depending on the sentence and its structure. You can use mientras to connect two actions in a sentence that two or more people perform simultaneously or at the same time. On the flip side, you can use mientras as a conditional. Mientras is a pretty popular word among native speakers. It is even useful to build common phrases like “Mientras tanto”. Then, if you seek to speak like a native and stand out with your Spanish, you have to keep reading this article.
Different structures of mientras
Often, Mientras introduces a subordinate clause. This means that it expresses an action that is being performed at the same time as another. Or in some cases, you need a condition to fulfill the action in the main clause. Then, to put it in another way, you can use mientras to express simultaneity.
In subourtinate clauses, since Mientras plays the role of a connector, you can express your ideas in the present or past tense. In that case, you can use the following formulas.
Past continuous / simple past + mientras + past continuous
Simple present + mientras + simple present
Here are some examples,
Hablaba por teléfono mientras conducía, por eso chocó. / He was talking on the phone while driving, that’s why he crashed.
Vi a Sofía con Pedro mientras tomaba un pedazo de torta de la nevera, no vayas a decir nada.
I saw Sofía with Pedro while she was taking a piece of cake from the fridge, don’t say anything.
Ella baila mientras escucha música. / She dances while listening to music.
María cocina mientras ayuda a su hija a estudiar. / María cooks while helping her daughter study.
Likewise, we can use mientras in the future with this formula below,
Simple future + mientras + simple present
Estudiaré mientras estamos en casa de la abuela.
I’ll study while we’re at Grandma’s.
Tranquila, yo vigilaré a los niños mientras vas al baño.
Don’t worry, I’ll watch the kids while you go to the bathroom.
When using mientras in conditional sentences it can have the meaning of “unless” or “as long as”, depending on the context. In that scenario, the formula would be the following.
Mientras + present subjunctive
Puedes salir con tus amigos mientras yo pueda salir con mis amigas.
You can go out with your friends as long as I can go out with my friends.
Mientras hagas tus tareas, tu papá y yo te dejaremos jugar las veces que quieras.
As long as you do your homework, your dad and I will let you play as many times as you want.
No aprobarás el examen mientras no estudies.
You won’t pass the exam unless you study.
Uses of mientras
There are two ways we can use mientras with expressions. These are mientras tanto and mientras que. The expression mientras tanto, in Spanish, belongs to the group of temporal connectors. You can use it to indicate the action you perform during the time it takes to perform another action. The connector mientras tanto is the Spanish translation for meanwhile or in the meantime in English. Let’s have a look at the examples below.
El arroz se está cocinando, mientras tanto, tú puedes lavar los tomates y la lechuga para la ensalada.
The rice is cooking, meanwhile you can wash the tomatoes and lettuce for the salad.
Hasta que no llegue la ambulancia no podemos mover, mientras tanto presiona la herida para que no siga sangrando.
Until the ambulance arrives we can’t move, meanwhile press the wound so that it doesn’t continue bleeding.
Todavía faltan unas horas para la fiesta, así que mientras tanto podemos ir a comer.
The party is still a few hours away, so in the meantime we can go eat.
Mientras que, on the other hand, works as a connector of opposition or contrast. This phrase will be helpful when you want to express opposite opinions, ideas or actions. You can use it to oppose two simultaneous actions. Mientras que is the Spanish equivalent to the English whereas but can have the meaning of “Instead”.Let’s see a few examples.
Mientras que tú dormías, yo hice todos los deberes del hogar.
While you slept, I did all the housework.
Pedro ya está en la universidad, mientras que su hermana Maria aún va a la escuela.
Pedro is already in college, while his sister Maria is still in school.
Carlos trabaja de mañana mientras que Jesus trabaja de noche, todo depende del trabajo que te toque.
Carlos works in the morning while Jesus works at night, it all depends on the job that you have.
Mientras with the use of a comma
One of how we can distinguish whether you use mientras as an adverb or conjunction is with the use of a comma. According to the rule, if you put a comma behind mientras, this word is an adverb.
On the contrary, if you do not put a comma behind mientras, then this word would be conjunction. Remember that mientras as a conjunction is an unstressed word. Therefore, you do not separate it with a comma from the verb it introduces. Here are some examples,
Ernesto es fanático del tenis, mientras que Marcos prefiere la natación.
Ernesto is a fan of tennis, while Marcos prefers swimming.
No descuides a los niños mientras cruzamos la calle.
Do not neglect the children while we cross the street.
As you may see, you can use the word mientras as a connector, as an adverb of time, or as a conjunction. Remember that, generally, its function is to express simultaneity between two actions. When you use the word mientras as a connector, this favors the understanding of your speech language. Using Mientras will help you provide coherence and cohesion to the sentence. That’s why it’s so important. With all of this said, we hope you can now make the right use of mientras and catch everybody’s attention when speaking Spanish.