If I wanted to say "We found ourselves in traffic while driving to the airport," I would say Ci siamo trovati nel traffico mentre guidando all'aeroporto.

Google Translate seems to understand guidando as "driving" but when I enter "while driving", I get mentre si guida.

So how would a native speaker say that sentence? What is the difference between the two options and when should I use one or the other?

  • 2
    I'd like to stress (as implicit in the answer already given) that *mentre guidando is ungrammatical: mentre is only used with “finite” verbal moods: mostly indicative, rarely conditional or subjunctive, but never with gerund.
    – DaG
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 12:09
  • I think we should make an effort to explain the reason of downvotes.
    – Charo
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 13:11

2 Answers 2


A native speaker would say:

Ci siamo trovati nel traffico mentre stavamo guidando verso l’aeroporto

You could replace stavamo guidando with a more generic stavamo andando or andavamo without mentioning the transportation mean.

Mentre si guida is not correct here because you should use it in sentences like this:

È vietato usare il cellulare mentre si guida
It is forbidden to use the mobile phone while driving

  • 3
    In Tuscany it would be “mentre si andava all'aeroporto”.
    – egreg
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 11:53
  • 2
    Confermo che “guidare” come traducente di to drive sa in certe frasi di calco dall'inglese, soprattutto se usato intransitivamente. In italiano diremmo “...mentre andavamo verso l'aeroporto” o, se è importante come, “...mentre andavamo in macchina verso l'aeroporto”.
    – DaG
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 12:06

Using "mentre si guida" or "guidando" is the same, because both are referring to a generic situation usually done by someone, and don't specify who is driving in particular. So for a correct translation on Google Translate I suppose you should write:

English: "We found ourselves in traffic while we were driving to the airport"

Italian: "Ci siamo trovati nel traffico mentre stavamo guidando verso l'aeroporto"

  • 3
    Welcome to Italian.SE, @John! This site is about Italian language and the OP is in fact asking how to express this idea in Italian.
    – Charo
    Commented Jan 6, 2019 at 9:16
  • 3
    I'm confused: in order to explain a feature of Italian grammar you suggest a way to rephrase an English sentence before feeding it to Google Translate? Am I correct?
    – DaG
    Commented Jan 6, 2019 at 13:51
  • I'm explaining where (and why) Google Translate fails. The rephrased english sentence I wrote doesn't change the meaning of the original sentence. Does it?
    – user275106
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 18:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.