Awhile vs. A While
Spoken language changes over time, and some of the ways in which we use words have developed because of these changes in spoken language. Let's look at the difference between when to use awhile and a while as an example of how words come into being because of the way we use them in spoken language.
While is a word that functions as a noun and means a period of time. It can also be used as a conjunction or conjunctive adverb meaning "when."
The words a while are a noun and an article introducing that noun. Again, the word refers to a period of time.
1. It took a while for our food to arrive at the restaurant.
2. Mrs. James told us that she needed to sit down for a while.
The word awhile has come to be used in place of the prepositional phrase "for a while." This prepositional phrase would function as an adverb, so awhile is considered to be an adverb.
1. Could we go to sleep awhile.
2. Mr. Harris rocked the baby awhile.
The rule of thumb to help you remember when to use a while versus awhile is that you should only use awhile when you could also use "for a while." Notice that you could do that in this sentence:
1. Mrs. James told us that she needed to sit down awhile.
You could not do it in this sentence:
1. It took for a while for our food to arrive at the restaurant.
So, if you are in doubt, you can always just use a while, and use the phrase "for a while" where you would have used awhile. Thanks for taking a while to try to understand the difference between the two!
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