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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?

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    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 Jan 4 at 12:09
  • I think we should make an effort to explain the reason of downvotes. – Charo Jan 4 at 13:11
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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

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    In Tuscany it would be “mentre si andava all'aeroporto”. – egreg Jan 4 at 11:53
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    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 Jan 4 at 12:06
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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"

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    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 Jan 6 at 9:16
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    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 Jan 6 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? – John Jan 7 at 18:31

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