Difference between mentre and durante in Italian

Mentre is a conjunction and it means “while”. It’s followed by a verb.


Che ne dici di bere qualcosa mentre aspetti il panino?
How about a drink while you wait for the sandwich?

Ascolto spesso la radio mentre faccio i compiti.
I often listen to the radio while I do homework.

kid listening to a radio

Durante, on the other hand, is a preposition that translates most often as “during”. It’s never followed by a verb. Instead, it’s always followed by a noun.


Siamo usciti tre volte durante la riunione.
We went out three times during the meeting.

Sono caduti tre alberi durante la tempesta.
Three trees fell during the storm.

ship during a storm

How do you use mentre in Italian?

As we said, mentre means while. Mentre introduces an action that takes place at the same time as another, just like the English conjunction “while”.

It’s a conjunction, and it’s always followed by a verb, or a subject and its verb if the subject isn’t implied.

Laura disegna mentre Marco gioca.
Laura draws while Marco plays.

Usi mai il cellulare mentre guidi?
Do you ever use your cell phone while driving?

Leggo spesso mentre mangio.
I often read a book while eating.

kid eating a bento box

NEVER use a gerund form. Unlike the English word “while”, mentre is never followed by a gerund form in Italian.

Mi sono addormentato mentre studiavo alla scrivania.
I fell asleep while studying at my desk.
(don’t say: mentre studiando)

Mi piace mangiare mentre gioco a carte.
I like to eat while playing cards.
(don’t say: mentre giocando)

Another difference between mentre and durante in Italian is that mentre can also introduce a contrasting sentence, like the adverb invece.

Sandro adora le auto, mentre suo fratello le odia.
Sandro loves cars, while his brother hates them.

Ad alcune persone piace la musica classica, mentre ad altre piace la musica pop.
Some people like classical music, while others like pop music.

How do you use durante in Italian?

Durante, unlike mentre, is used in front of nouns and never precedes a verb. For example, you can say…

Cosa farai durante le vacanze estive?
What will you do during summer vacation?

Federico prende appunti durante la riunione.
Federico takes notes during the meeting.

Luca è stato male durante il viaggio.
Luca was sick during the trip.

man feeling sick on the train

Let’s see how we can use either mentre or durante in Italian to say the same thing.

Non usare il cellulare mentre guidi.
Non usare il cellulare durante la guida.
Do not use a cell phone while driving.

Ho letto il giornale mentre facevo colazione.
Ho letto il giornale durante la colazione.
I read the newspaper while eating breakfast.

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