So this sentence appeared in my grammar book:


It says the correct thing to write in the blank space is 最中に. Which would roughly translate the sentence to "Just as the party was going on, an earthquake occurred, and the venue changed into an uproar".

While I understand why 最中に is a correct answer, I don´t quite understand why うちに can't also be used. I thought that besides using うちに like の前に, it could be also be used as 間に。

3 Answers 3


There are two reasons.

  • Unlike ~の間に, it seems that ~のうちに cannot be directly used with nouns that denote an event. (As long as it's used with the noun that denotes a time span, it can be very short)

    • 今年のうちに/今日のうちに/7月のうちに/夏のうちに
    • 朝のうちに/午前のうちに/日中のうちに
    • 夏休みのうちに/オリンピックの開催期間のうちに
    • 小学生のうちに/子供のうちに
    • 一瞬のうちに
    • [*]番組のうちに/[*]コンサートのうちに/[*]オリンピックのうちに

    Your sentence should at least be パーティーが終わらないうちに or パーティーをやっているうちに.

  • Unlike ~の間に, うちに has the nuance of "no later than ~ ends" rather than "in the midst of". In other words, when one says うちに, there is usually a "deadline" in his mind. But such nuance is not necessary in this case.

    • 子供のうちに勉強をしておきましょう。
    • 鉄は熱いうちに打て。 Strike while the iron is hot.


"An earthquake hit right in the middle of the party and the place just panicked."

While 「[最中]{さいちゅう}に」 may not be the only phrase that can correctly fill in the blank, it is a far better choice than 「うちに」.  In fact, using 「うちに」 there would be highly inapproproate. Why?

When we say 「noun + の + うちに」, the duration of what that noun represents must be fairly long. It needs to last at least several days and it can last a few years as well. You might say:


It is fine to say that because the summer recess lasts 6 weeks.

Or you can place a whole mini-sentence in front of 「うちに」 to say something like:


The speaker will be living in Japan for a year, so he can say this using 「うちに」.

To go back to the original sentence, we need to think about how long this party lasts. A few hours at the most, right? And how long does an earthquake last? A couple of minutes at the most, normally, yes? If so, that is your prime opportunity to use 「最中に」-- something quick happening right in the middle of a not-so-long-lasting event.

Regarding 「[間]{あいだ}に」 that you mentioned, it may not be totally incorrect to use it here, but it does not sound nearly as natural as when using 「最中に」. I will admit that some native speakers might actually use 「間に」 here, but to me at least, it would lack the "capture the moment" kind of impact that 「最中に」 gives you.

  • I've seen plenty of examples of うちに being used where the time span is pretty short... 明るいうちに庭の掃除をしてしまおう。Or: アイスを溶けないうちに早く食べてくださいね。Are these sentences incorrect?
    – Nahcirn
    Nov 16, 2017 at 6:04

うち is a noun which usually means '(inside) your own house', '(inside) your mind' and your family. It is not used to indicate 'in the middle of something such as パーティー.

'うちに' is used to indicate a period of time within which an action continuously occurs. It is close to 'while', but the most important thing to remember is it is not used when a single event occurs.

I think you are thinking about 途中 which means 'in the middle of' as in


It translates to

(Literally) In the middle of the party... While the party was going on...

'最中に' is different from 途中 as '最' literally means 'most' which is used to change the following character or word to superlative and '中' means 'middle'. It literally translates to 'in the height of' or 'in the most middle of'. Your example sentence translates to

(Literally) In the height of the party... When the party was reaching the best moment... When the party was reaching the climax

It is important to understand what the character '最' means and what difference this character makes.

  • You seem to be misunderstanding at least part of their question since OP asks about why うちに does not work.
    – virmaior
    Jul 16, 2016 at 11:37
  • @virmaior Does 'パーティーのうちに' make sense?
    – Rathony
    Jul 16, 2016 at 11:38
  • To me, no, not for an earthquake vs. a party. Again, this is not my question. The OP asks: I don´t quite understand why うちに can't also be used.
    – virmaior
    Jul 16, 2016 at 11:40
  • @virmaior I explained that t is not used to indicate 'in the middle of something like パーティー.
    – Rathony
    Jul 16, 2016 at 11:42

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