Awhile vs. A While (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use awhile vs. a while with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.
Author:
Publish date:

Learn when to use awhile vs. a while with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Image placeholder title

I've been meaning to write this post for a while, because the difference between awhile and a while has plagued me for years. After spending a while looking into their meanings and usages, I think I've got it down.

(The Difference Between Allude vs. Elude.)

In a while, you may have it locked down too!

Awhile vs. A While

Awhile is an adverb that means "for a while." The obvious question, what does "a while" mean?

The while in a while is a noun that means "a period of time." If you can swap out a while with a period of time, then you're likely dealing with the noun while.

Make sense?

Let's go through a few examples:

Correct: He drank awhile after running five miles.
Incorrect: He drank a while after running five miles.

Correct: The best way to find the answer is to think for a while about the problem.
Incorrect: The best way to find the answer is to think for awhile about the problem.

Correct: You said you would sing awhile a while ago.
Incorrect: You said you would sing a while awhile ago.

One trick for keeping them straight is to remember awhile is an adverb and while is a noun. If we think awhile about their differences, then it shouldn't take more than a while to figure out when to use which.

Learn more in the online course, Grammar and Mechanics, from Writer’s Digest University:

Image placeholder title