Saturday, August 14, 2010

A while v. awhile

What is the difference between awhile and a while?  As a noun phrase after a preposition such as after, for, in, within, one should use two words, a while. In that case, it means 'a short or moderate time.' If one is using the term adverbially, it should be spelled as one word, awhile, which means 'for a short time.' Examples of each are: I will stay for a while at the party. He stayed awhile. This topic is a fine point of grammar, and for many uses, only writing it will distinguish which syntactic structure one should use.

I assume that if I find something interesting, everyone else will as well. :)


  1. That's great! People tend to confuse these two. This reminds of my Syntax class, haha.

  2. "I will stay for a while at the party. He napped for a while."
    OR they could read:

    I will stay awhile.
    He napped awhile.

    In the adverbial sense.

    Actually, if you say it as a noun phrase there is a natural pause between, "a," and ,"while." When you say it in as an adverb the pause disappears.

    Just back from Cornwall, Mary.
    The bracing sea air has done funny things to my head.


  3. I had a typo in this post and spelled both uses as "a while." Ugh! Tony, it doesn't take much for funny things to happen to my head. Hope you had fun in Cornwall. I wanted to go to Land's End, but only got as far as Devon. Ran out of time.