What is the difference between "hingegen" and "während"? They both mean "whereas".

  1. Meine Mutter sieht im Wohnzimmer fern, während mein Vater repariert den Wagen.
  2. Er fährt Auto, hingegen sendet er eine Nachricht an seine Freundin Jana.
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    As a native German, the second sentence makes not sense to me. – Uwe Keim Dec 24 '13 at 7:46
  • Ich würde sagen, dass in deinem ersten Satz das Währed eher "while" bedeutet, als "whereas" (obwohl "whereas" da passen könnte). Und im zweiten ergibt "whereas" keinen Sinn. – thekeyofgb Dec 24 '13 at 7:52

Let’s ignore for a while that während may also have the temporal meaning of “at the same time“. Then the difference between the two is that hingegen clearly contrasts two statements, while während may just connect two statements that are somewhat parallel but not identical. Since you would not use während for identical statements, there always is some difference between the two statements that will make most uses of während seem contrasting anyway.

Some examples:

Ich wurde abends geboren, während meine zwei Jahre ältere Schwester morgens geboren wurde. – I was born in the evening, while my two years older sister was born in the morning.

Here, there is absolutely no reason to expect me and my sister to be born at the same time of the day, so there is nothing to contrast. I might almost as well have used two separate sentences:

Ich wurde abends geboren. Meine zwei Jahre ältere Schwester wurde morgens geboren.

The only difference to the former example is that here, the pacing and style are less fluent and more prosaic.

Ich wurde abends geboren, meine ältere Zwillingsschwester hingegen wurde morgens geboren. – I was born in the evening, my older twin sister, however, was born in the morning.

Here, there is a reason to expect me and my sister to be born at the same time of the day and hence there is some reason to contrast the two, which is done here – but is not mandatory: you may still use während.

Finally, let’s regard again the temporal meaning of während: With this, während may be used anywhere between emphasising the simultaneity of two events, connecting two statements about events, which happen to be simultaneous, and connecting two events, which are clearly not simultaneous:

Ich habe Chemie studiert, während meine Schwester Physik studiert hat. – I studied chemistry, while/whereas my sister studied physics.

Without further context, this sentence may mean as well that my sister and have been studying at the same time (this is certain and emphasised, if während is emphasised in spoken language) and just that my sister has been studying at some time while I have been studying at another, non-overlapping time.

Hingegen, on the other hand, does not have any temporal connotation.

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