Home > Grammar > A While vs. Awhile

A While vs. Awhile

The difference between a while and awhile confuses many of us, yet there is a simple way to determine when to use which one. But first, let’s look at their definitions:

 

DEFINITIONS:

A while  is a noun meaning: a period of time.

“I knew it would take a while to make the changes to the website.”

“It’s been a while since my parents’ visit.”

Awhile is an adverb meaning: for a period of time.

“My mom asked me to stay awhile.”

“He said he would wait awhile.”

DETERMINING THE DISTINCTIONS:

Note that their meanings are basically the same. They both speak of a period of time. The difference is that the word for is understood to be an inherent part of the word awhile. Remember, awhile means for a period of time, or for a while.

Okay, now that I’ve confused you completely, let me “unconfuse” you!

Substitution Check for AWHILE:

Wherever you see the word awhile, you should be able to substitute it with for a while.

Let’s try the substitution-check with the examples from above:

“My mom asked me to stay awhile.”

“My mom asked me to stay for a while.”

“He said he would wait awhile.”

“He said he would wait for a while.”

GREAT! It worked! The substitutions make sense!

Substitution Check for A WHILE:

On the other hand, if we try to substitute a while with for a while, it should NOT make sense!

“I knew it would take a while to make the changes to the website.”

“I knew it would take for a while to make the changes to the website.” (incorrect!)

“It’s been a while since my parents’ visit.”

“It’s been for a while since my parents’ visit.” (incorrect!)

Whew! It worked! The substitutions did not make sense!

If Ever in Doubt….

If ever in doubt, use a while. Coupled with the right words, it will never be wrong as shown below:

“My mom asked me to stay awhile.”

Can also be written as:

“My mom asked me to stay for a while.”

Both are correct. You may stay awhile, or you may stay for a while. The for is built right into the awhile. What you cannot do is stay for awhile, as shown in the following examples:

“My mom asked me to stay for awhile.” (incorrect)

Why? Because awhile means for a while, thus the sentence would contain a double for as shown below:

“My mom asked me to stay for for a while.” (incorrect)

Are you ready to go edit now? After all that, if it’s been a while since you’ve visited my blog, I hope you stay awhile and check out my other posts! 🙂

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  1. August 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Here in Lancaster County PA they use ‘awhile’ in this way – “Can I get your drinks awhile?” It cracks us up!

    Deanna

  2. August 27, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    …and then there is local speech! 🙂

    Deanna, I took a quick look over at your blog. Trust you ride the hurricane out without damage!

    I noticed that “The Missionary Mama” was on your blogroll. With your last name being Rabe, I wondered if you are an aunt—or some other relation to Melissa. I’ve known Melissa and her family for years. My husband & I were missionaries with NTM for 20 years. Our home church was the same home church Melissa’s parents had back then. I have another blog, Rosie Rambles On, that shares many of our stories. http://rosierambleson.WordPress.com

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