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Awhile vs. A While: When to Use Awhile or A While in English


Learn the difference between awhile vs. a while. Is there any way that the English language can get even more difficult than it already is, you might ask? Unfortunately, the answer is yes; English will never stop surprising you and you’ll carry on discovering new pairs of confusing words. Here, let’s look at awhile vs. a while. These two words differ only by a space but in fact, they are different parts of speech, so obviously they can’t be used interchangeably.

Awhile vs. A While

AWHILE is an adverb that means “for a period of time”, and A WHILE is a noun meaning “a period of time”. As you see, even the meanings of these two are extremely similar. However, a single space and an added “for” in the meaning can make a lot of difference.


  • After dinner sit awhile, after supper walk a mile.
  • I read awhile, then slept.
  • After a while, we naturally started talking about the children.
  • Will you keep an eye on my daughter for a while?

When to Use Awhile or A While

When you want to say that some time has passed, use a while. For example, you’ve certainly heard the phrase, “It’s been A WHILE since we last spoke”. Or, if you ask someone about how long it takes to get to the city center, they might reply, “It takes A WHILE to get there”. In both of these cases, a while can be replaced with any other noun that specifies a time period, e.g. “It’s been a year since we last spoke”“It takes an hour to get there”.

Since the noun a while can be replaced with a different noun, it’s only logical that the adverb awhile can be replaced with another adverb. For instance, a mother can say to her child, “Go play outside AWHILE”. Instead, she could have said, “Go play outside carefully”. The sentence still makes sense, so indeed, awhile is the correct spelling.

In addition, you can always check yourself by replacing the word in question with the phrase “for a while”. If you can do this, then you need an adverb awhile. If you can’t, a while is what you’re looking for.

Take a look at these two sentences:

  • 1) I told my friend to rest awhile.
  • 2) After a while, my friend started feeling better.

In the first sentence, awhile is written as one word because it’s an adverb that can be replaced with “for a while” or with a different adverb. On the other hand, in the second sentence, we’re talking about a time period, e.g. an hour or five minutes. However, we don’t want to specify how much time exactly has passed. For these reasons, a while should be used as a noun and spelled as two words.

Awhile vs. A While Examples

  • You usually have to wait awhile before you can get in the club.
  • He fought with the urge to smoke one of the cigars he’d given up awhile ago.
  • He suffered a little stroke after his surgery and took awhile to recover.
  • Once in a while we go to a restaurant but usually we eat at home.
  • Please sit down for a while.
  • Let me ask your doctor. Please wait for a while.

Difference between A While vs. Awhile | Picture

Awhile vs. A While

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