“Awhile” vs. “A While”: What’s the Diff?

Syllabus Montreal TranslationAwhile and a while sound exactly the same—they even look almost the same. So how do you know which one to use?

Here’s how it works:

The one-word version is an adverb (in other words, it modifies a verb) and means “a short time.”

 

 

  • We ate dinner and talked awhile.
  • Stop and rest awhile.

Still unclear? Try this trick: Awhile appears beside a verb and can be replaced by “for a while.”

The two-word version is an article with a noun that means “a period of time.”

  • I’ll be away for a while.
  • I only eat chocolate once in a while.
  • Watching TV gets boring after a while.
  • I saw my friend a while ago.

Hint: A while follows a preposition (for, in, after) or comes before the word ago.

Given that there’s no audible difference, you don’t have to worry when you’re speaking. But as soon as you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), it’s important to make the distinction.

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