Dictionary.com

Word Fact: What’s the Difference Between “A While” and “Awhile”?

charactor

Few word pairs capture the idiosyncrasies of the English language as effectively as a while and awhile. Both of these terms are expressions of time, and both have been in use for over a century, but one is written with a space while the other is one word. What are the differences in meaning between the two? And what are the appropriate uses of each?

These two terms represent different parts of speech. The two-word expression a while is a noun phrase, consisting of the article a and the noun while, defined as “a period or interval of time.” The one-word awhile is an adverb that means “for a short time or period.” Although these definitions are similar, and although the terms can sometimes be used interchangeably, there are a few simple rules that prove helpful in keeping them straight.

The noun phrase a while can and often does follow a preposition, such as for or in: “He said he would be home in a while.” The adverb awhile cannot follow a preposition, a rule that makes sense if you revisit the definition of the term and drop it into a sentence such as the one above: “He said he would be home in for a short time or period.” However, if we omit the preposition and rewrite it as “He said he would be home awhile,” the sentence works with a slightly altered meaning.

The base word in both of these expressions, while, is perhaps most commonly used as a conjunction, meaning “during,” “although,” or “throughout the time that,” as in “She ate the cookie dough while he greased the baking sheet.” These senses are separate from the noun and adverbial senses discussed above. While can also be used as a verb meaning “to cause (time) to pass, especially in some easy or pleasant manner,” as in “She whiled away the hours ruminating on the differences between awhile and a while.”

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242 Comments

  1. Dr. Geofram Barnholdt -  August 8, 2016 - 10:10 pm

    Whoops! Double post! Sorry!

    Reply
  2. Dr. Geofram Barnholdt -  August 8, 2016 - 10:08 pm

    I don’t know, guys. I don’t think any of this kind of stuff is all that important. with autocorrect and speech to text software their isn’t a point to these arguments

    Reply
    • Winsome -  August 18, 2016 - 9:07 am

      Your idea of an argument is totally lightweight. This is merely discussion. Yes, it’s worth it. This is our native tongue, we should speak it impeccably and be able to instruct others, especially our own children, in hour to speak our language properly.

      People will always judge you by your speech. They have no other way to evaluate you when you meet. For example, when Trayvon Martin was murdered, people paid no attention to the witness for the prosecution who was on the phone with him when he was murdered. Instead, all of America laughed because she could hardly speak English. She was speaking an inner city dialect more closely related to Ebonics. Her peer group understood her perfectly, but she was not speaking proper English.
      She was telling us vital information but listeners could not overlook her lack of language skills long enough to understand that information.

      I recall a day when I was having a job interview with the Human Resources Department of a large hospital. The interviewer spoke with me only a moment, and then she pulled out paper and pen and wrote a few words She folded the paper in half and handed it to me, saying, “Take this to the ER and ask to see the Director.” On the way down in the elevator, I unfolded the paper. It read, “This one is well spoken. Hire her.”

      If you contrast these two examples you can clearly see that language skills are an advantage, and one you will hopefully give to your children.

      Reply
  3. kristinpwnsyou -  July 13, 2016 - 1:21 pm

    I have never witnessed so many people who need to smoke a joint and chill out than I have on this thread.

    Reply
    • Dr. Geofram Barnholdt -  August 8, 2016 - 10:06 pm

      I don’t know, guys. I don’t think any of this kind of stuff is all that important. with autocorrect and speech to text software their isn’t a point to these arguments.

      Reply
      • Victoria -  August 13, 2016 - 12:49 pm

        Hmmmm; ‘their’ isn’t a point(?): I’m afraid that autocorrect isn’t always correct.

        Reply
        • Emily -  August 15, 2016 - 6:15 pm

          The iron-e is thick.
          I agree with Victoria.

          Reply
  4. Payton Robbins -  May 4, 2016 - 11:22 pm

    “Perhaps you should not comment on grammar issues when you cannot write English correctly. The following are your mistakes (there may be more but I will not devote more time to your pathology and evident ignorance): “its” in this case should be “it’s;” “Cumon” is devoid of vernacular; and “serciouly” is not a word but I think you meant “seriously.” Now, if you’re doing this as a prank — it’s not funny but rather an embarrassment to those of whom correctly use the most powerful language on the planet. If you’re truly this illiterate, then study this site; read books and dictionaries; and, go back to grade school without shame. You’re not qualified to discuss such issues on social media or any other forum.”

    Wrong way of thinking:

    If you’re truly this illiterate, then study this site; read books and dictionaries; and, go back to grade school without shame.

    Right way of thinking:

    If you’re truly this illiterate, then study this site; read books and dictionaries; go back to grade school without shame.

    Reply
    • P.G. Aldine -  May 15, 2016 - 6:32 pm

      While you’re at it, smarty pants, this…
      “an embarrassment to those of whom correctly use”
      is hideous English.
      Try this: “an embarrassment to those who correctly use”

      Pot. Kettle. Etc.

      Reply
    • S J Lean -  May 21, 2016 - 11:45 pm

      Hey, pedant! Come out of your glass house, or are you pedantic only where you perceive the mistake is someone else’s?

      Wears yer commer in yer compowned seninse?

      (there may be more but I will not devote more time to your pathology and evident ignorance)

      And, by the way, your semi-colon use is horrific. (Oh look MArvin, the nasty man began a sentence with “and”.
      Note the period outside the quotes, because it wasn’t in the original sentence.

      Why is the internet full of haters?

      Reply
    • Me -  July 12, 2016 - 12:10 pm

      Um, I feel sorry for you. Clearly, the two idiots down there don’t realize you’re quoting someone.

      Reply
  5. Lee Bradshaw -  February 12, 2016 - 4:52 am

    we are losing the romance of language,I just love to read the letters of civil war soldiers;poigant and articulate.

    Reply
    • FRICKTHEPOLICE -  February 16, 2016 - 1:17 pm

      SAME HERE

      Reply
    • Gina -  March 30, 2016 - 10:51 am

      So do I …… And the beautiful handwriting!

      Reply
  6. wajahat -  February 12, 2016 - 1:01 am

    after reading lot of comments and seeing everyone’s views i got more confuse for these two words
    but i would like to thanks everybody for took part in elucidation and elaborate their view.

    Reply
    • Rowen G -  June 16, 2016 - 12:50 am

      INCORRECT
      “after reading lot of comments and seeing everyone’s views i got more confuse for these two words but i would like to thanks everybody for took part in elucidation and elaborate their view.”

      CORRECT
      After reading alot of comments and seeing everyone’s views, I became more confused about these two words. But I would like to thank everyone who took part in elucidating and elaborating their view.

      Reply
      • Quaker Man -  July 17, 2016 - 11:38 am

        a lot

        Reply
        • greg cavalcante -  July 26, 2016 - 7:56 pm

          Thank you for pointing out the improper usage of the non-word “alot”, Quaker Man.

          I was getting set to do it and saw you had already done so.
          I always cringe a tiny bit when I see people’s use of it
          I do so enjoy seeing someone “getting taken down a peg” who was attempting to take another “down a peg”.

          Hilarious!

          Folks need to relax a bit, always pointing out each others misspellings and incorrect usage of words, punctuation marks and phrases.

          (As I’m sure will be done with what I have submitted.)

          The English language is fraught with too many rules, which are known only by linguists.

          It is for this very reason I have said for many years, here in America, we ought to chuck the English language out, and speak as I do, the American language.
          Maybe even get rid of a few common sounding letters.
          I and Y.
          Ski or Sky. Sky, that vast blue thing outdoors above your head.
          Skee is something you do going down a show covered hill or mountain.
          Obviously we will still need a Y to spell “yes” and I to spell “is”. But maybe some of these common sounding letters ought to used differently.

          There will be fewer rules and spelling phonetically will be acceptable.

          I mean c’mon, “psychiatry”? Really? Who knows how to properly spell sykyatry?

          Alright, bring it on you internet linguists and pseudo-professors.
          Give me a good lashing for my misuse of punctuation marks.
          I deserve it, all of it!

          Reply
      • greg cavalcante -  July 26, 2016 - 7:59 pm

        Damn Rowen G. two attempts and you still got it wrong! Ha ha ha!

        Reply
      • greg cavalcante -  July 26, 2016 - 8:02 pm

        Damn Rowen G!

        Two attempts and you still got it wrong!
        Ha ha ha!

        Reply
  7. Miranda -  December 31, 2015 - 4:24 am

    I’ve always wondered what the difference. This explains it.

    Reply
    • cooldude -  January 6, 2016 - 1:47 pm

      Same here. :)

      Reply
      • Bony Dagger -  January 17, 2016 - 1:05 pm

        Me, too.

        Reply
        • sam garner -  February 11, 2016 - 5:41 am

          hit me up on tinder

          Reply
          • jemma -  February 16, 2016 - 12:11 pm

            gross

    • stop the debate -  February 5, 2016 - 9:05 am

      whats this whole big debate about, i mean its just two words cumon guys serciouly you don’t have to get so worked up about two words common words

      Reply
      • sam garner -  February 11, 2016 - 5:40 am

        LOL

        Reply
      • TheQLover -  February 11, 2016 - 4:13 pm

        Perhaps you should not comment on grammar issues when you cannot write English correctly. The following are your mistakes (there may be more but I will not devote more time to your pathology and evident ignorance): “its” in this case should be “it’s;” “Cumon” is devoid of vernacular; and “serciouly” is not a word but I think you meant “seriously.” Now, if you’re doing this as a prank — it’s not funny but rather an embarrassment to those of whom correctly use the most powerful language on the planet. If you’re truly this illiterate, then study this site; read books and dictionaries; and, go back to grade school without shame. You’re not qualified to discuss such issues on social media or any other forum.

        Reply
        • readerleader -  February 17, 2016 - 6:37 pm

          “Chill it’s just a prank bro.”

          Reply
        • Jorge -  March 12, 2016 - 6:50 pm

          To TheQLover:

          Yes, bad English is disagreeable and I concur with your remarks, but not with your statement that English is the most powerful language.
          How many languages do you possess well enough to compare them with English?
          How do you measure a language’s power versus that of other languages?
          Do you know that Spanish, for instance, has better conjugational modes and tenses (especially the subjunctive, which is dismally poor in English), that the pronunciation of English words is absurdly unruly, that capitalization of provenance-related adjectives (French instead of french, etc.) is irrational, that the pronoun “you” has no plural, that many titles have no gender (what is Dr. Smith: boy or girl?), that English grammar is skeletal.
          The Swan of the Avon’s language is practical, lexically rich, widely divulged, and by its etymology, perhaps the most mongrel.
          Do not read animosity here, and please, remove Q and L from your pseudonym; capiltal letters do not grow in the middle of words. The Q Lover is the ticket, I believe
          Regards.

          Reply
          • Dan Sarco -  April 12, 2016 - 10:36 am

            There is a plural for the pronoun “you”, where I am in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, it is “Y’all”. In my experience, it is the one word which “Northerner’s” who have been in the South even a short awhile, often take back to the North with them. I’ve seen it even with some ardent “Southern Haters”. It is simply a damn useful word, or “phrase”, or whatever it is. Usen’s down hear ain’t got no edgeuraction ya no.

          • Dave -  June 7, 2016 - 10:30 am

            I thought the plural of you was “all y’all”…

        • TempleStark -  April 5, 2016 - 7:53 am

          Don’t you mean “an embarrassment to those who correctly use” not “to those of whom…”?

          Irony is another important concept in the English language.

          Reply
          • Zachary Evans -  May 15, 2016 - 7:02 pm

            He just wants to show all the English he knows, which is unsurprisingly little.

        • SociopathicTroll -  August 4, 2016 - 2:14 am

          Git trolld keed xdddddddddd

          Reply
      • Gina -  March 30, 2016 - 10:45 am

        You seem to have the same message for every discussion!

        Reply
  8. Alia -  December 22, 2015 - 9:30 pm

    How interesting… I’m supposed to be getting some words for my story on Thesaurus.com but these things keep pulling me in… Whatever! These ARE interesting….

    Reply
    • LC -  January 30, 2016 - 6:10 pm

      Same!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Reply
  9. Caleb -  December 9, 2015 - 12:56 pm

    I’m going to sit for a while and let the smoke all pour out of my ears.

    Reply
    • lilly -  December 14, 2015 - 3:41 pm

      hi

      Reply
    • pink -  December 25, 2015 - 4:10 pm

      Awile ago i was very tired.

      Reply
      • Spell Itright -  January 21, 2016 - 7:28 am

        Could have at least used the correct spelling you massive cunt

        Reply
        • Mo -  January 28, 2016 - 11:01 am

          Could at least be politically correct.

          Reply
          • sam garner -  February 11, 2016 - 5:42 am

            want to facetime later???

        • Keely -  February 9, 2016 - 9:07 pm

          What’s up with the name-calling? And why blast someone with sexism for a simple mistake? Is your day so terribly bad?

          Reply
    • fara -  February 12, 2016 - 4:42 pm

      :-)

      Reply
  10. colleen -  December 4, 2015 - 12:48 pm

    loooolll… im sitting in english class laughing at how crazy people get over words. ps ripped middle school teacher is an oxymoron unless you teach gym. gym teacher also an oxymoron.

    Reply
  11. Ryan -  December 1, 2015 - 2:56 pm

    Few word pairs capture the idiosyncrasies of the English language as effectively as a while and awhile. Both of these terms are expressions of time, and both have been in use for over a century, but one is written with a space while the other is one word. What are the differences in meaning between the two? And what are the appropriate uses of each?

    These two terms represent different parts of speech. The two-word expression a while is a noun phrase, consisting of the article a and the noun while, defined as “a period or interval of time.” The one-word awhile is an adverb that means “for a short time or period.” Although these definitions are similar, and although the terms can sometimes be used interchangeably, there are a few simple rules that prove helpful in keeping them straight.

    The noun phrase a while can and often does follow a preposition, such as for or in: “He said he would be home in a while.” The adverb awhile cannot follow a preposition, a rule that makes sense if you revisit the definition of the term and drop it into a sentence such as the one above: “He said he would be home in for a short time or period.” However, if we omit the preposition and rewrite it as “He said he would be home awhile,” the sentence works with a slightly altered meaning.

    The base word in both of these expressions, while, is perhaps most commonly used as a conjunction, meaning “during,” “although,” or “throughout the time that,” as in “She ate the cookie dough while he greased the baking sheet.” These senses are separate from the noun and adverbial senses discussed above. While can also be used as a verb meaning “to cause (time) to pass, especially in some easy or pleasant manner,” as in “She whiled away the hours ruminating on the differences between awhile and a while.”

    Reply
  12. Mike -  November 24, 2015 - 9:23 am

    That cookie dough example made me chuckle.

    Reply
    • Ryan -  December 1, 2015 - 2:53 pm

      It was not that funny

      Reply
    • Dan -  January 26, 2016 - 10:34 am

      The assignment of the gender in the example made it oddly sexual. It gave cookie dough and cookie sheet a nuanced meaning.

      Reply
  13. Carmen -  November 22, 2015 - 2:27 pm

    Wot.

    Reply
  14. toughghost101 -  November 12, 2015 - 8:00 am

    XD 030 030 030

    Reply
  15. KIMM!!! -  October 28, 2015 - 1:33 pm

    I…..like……WORDS!!!

    Reply
    • KIMM!!! -  October 28, 2015 - 1:34 pm

      WHO ELSE IS WITH ME???? :P

      Reply
      • Boo -  November 9, 2015 - 10:59 am

        i like words too. Here’s a fun one I heard for the first time a few days ago…verklmpt; adj. completely overcome with emotion

        It’s my new favourite word. It sounds nice and it’s fun to say..and often I feel verklempt so now I have a word for it.
        Happy days.

        Reply
        • Karen Higgins -  November 12, 2015 - 11:37 am

          Verklempt (probavly German) where as forklemt is Danish, both mean the same, apprehensive, depressed, worried etc. Forklemt cover the meaning of all three words. The English vocabulary is enormous compared to Danish or German.

          Reply
          • Carl -  December 1, 2015 - 4:35 am

            The German word you are looking for is “verklemmt”, which means ‘uptight’, I will not argue whether Germans can be described by that, but it just does not mean any of the things you are stating here

          • Jay Arnott -  December 26, 2015 - 10:20 pm

            It was also made popular in the 90′s by Mike Myers on Saturday Night Live, was a great sketch.

          • writer? -  March 8, 2016 - 2:07 pm

            Verklempt is a Yiddish word meaning overwhelmed with emotion

        • verklempt is Yiddish -  March 8, 2016 - 1:46 pm

          verklempt is Yiddish

          Reply
      • ceye -  November 13, 2015 - 3:33 pm

        I love words best when I get a thought and am able to string them together to create an idea. I can share or cause an emotional reaction in others! The Power of Words. A good Thesaurus is a must to add color to the same word in a different usage.

        Reply
      • Kimmy Lang -  November 15, 2015 - 12:55 pm

        Heh, me too.

        Reply
        • sam garner -  February 11, 2016 - 5:43 am

          hit me up on tumblr

          Reply
      • GameGirl007 -  December 16, 2015 - 8:09 am

        I am)))

        Reply
    • Frank -  November 10, 2015 - 6:36 am

      email me if you have a problem with me. im a ripped middle school teacher. NOVEMBER IS THE MONTH OF THE TURKEY SO I AM ALL POWERFUL

      Reply
    • G K -  November 17, 2015 - 12:49 am

      Then you are a logophile.

      Reply
  16. FuriousGarfield149 -  October 27, 2015 - 6:43 am

    Nothing much

    Reply
  17. RSS -  October 21, 2015 - 1:03 am

    Idiosyncratic? Try it with whilst.

    Reply
  18. Anders -  September 29, 2015 - 9:10 am

    The two-word expression “a while” is a noun phrase, consisting of the article “a” and the noun “while,” defined as “a period or interval of time.”

    In comparison, the word “awhile” has two primary properties: (1) it can always be replaced by proper use of the expression “a while”; and (2) its deviation from standard English is pronounced enough that its use may give the appearance of poor education. Accordingly, the thoughtful user would be well-advised to approach the word as slang.

    For example, to convey the idea of being home for a short time or period, one could write: “He said he would be home for a while.” Whereas to convey the same thing, but at the same time give an impression of non-standard, less educated, or otherwise informal use of the English language, one could write: “He said he would be home awhile.”

    Reply
    • ANJAN -  November 15, 2015 - 12:01 pm

      WE GET IT

      Reply
    • verklempt is Yiddish -  March 8, 2016 - 1:50 pm

      I have never used ” awhile “.

      I only ever use “a while”.
      Arethere examples of its written use?

      Reply
  19. Pete Wong -  August 20, 2015 - 5:55 am

    Another trick to use is to try and insert an adjective like ‘little’ between ‘a’ and ‘while’, and see what it does to the context. If the context is changed, to a shorter amount of time, when it needs to express the opposite, then separate them. Otherwise, smoosh ‘em togetha?

    I like adding question marks to sentences now, to give a tone of upward inflection, you know?

    Reply
    • Giselle -  August 27, 2015 - 9:23 am

      What one “likes” as regards tonal inflection is not necessarily correct. If you listen to the majority of the younger generations speaking with each other, virtually ALL of their sentences would end with an interrogatory if you listen only to their tone of voice. Tone of voice does not contribute to proper punctuation, save for an exclamation mark, but knowledge of good grammar does.

      Take a listen to the early “Valley Girl” talk of the eighties. You will find that most of the generations that do not know that “like” is not a verb that means “to say”, (i.e., “He like, ‘I’m coming over after last period, and I like, ‘Cool!’”

      The work “like,” as it is used in today’s American idiomatic expression, is trite, overused and, more importantly, bears no resemblance whatsoever to its various intended meanings and usages. Further, its incorrect usage has become so common that rarely do people object to its use! The overuse of a word that bears no resemblance to its intended meaning screams out that the person who is speaking, or writing, or applying for a job has no familiarity with grammar itself. As a potential employer, I am interested in candidate that knows more than to simply “give a lift to the end of a sentence by using a question mark.” Grammar, when correctly used, is an indicator of educational level. As well, the use of words as they are intended for use, tells the potential employer that the applicant
      will represent a person who has the ability to “bolster his game” through correct usage, even as he speaks “Valley” in a more relaxed setting.

      Tone of voice is communicated through the use of words that would imply a raised tone of voice, ( “I was able to determine that he was a Southern gentleman because he raised his voice when he remarked on the marvels of our delicious Southern cooking. The reader is told that he raised his voice, so as to imply HIS raised tone at the end of his statement. Had that same man lowered his voice at the sentence’s end, he would have been perceived as a man of mystery, instead of a “Southern Dandy,” that kind which became familiar in usage in, Margaret Mitchell’s, “Gone with the Wind.”

      Use words according to their definitions. Expand your word power. Learn correct usage. Gain respect!

      Reply
      • Sophia -  September 15, 2015 - 1:09 am

        Wow, while you aren’t incorrect and are obviously well-read…why so serious? I’m not sure a light-hearted intentional stylistic choice in just a couple sentences (or abuse, in some perspectives) is deserving of a lecture of that caliber. I’m sure you meant to be informative, but it ends up sounding berating and arrogant.

        Reply
        • Brenna -  September 26, 2015 - 8:37 am

          Agreed… such a completely unprompted, pedantic lecture as this is a real treasure – a shining example of internet message board hilarity!

          Giselle, you should also note that language can be used for humor – which Pete Wong was doing.

          Reply
      • Mike -  September 21, 2015 - 2:18 pm

        Actually, what is deemed to be “correct” grammar and word usage is a constantly evolving thing, based mostly on mass adoption and acceptance. If everyone followed what you suggest here then we would never have language evolution. The only people that complain about language evolution incidentally are the same people who complain that “kids these days, [insert something he/she considers scandalous about the current generation]“. *Every* generation in recent history says the same thing about the next generation. People have a tendency to reach a point in their lives where their morals, language usage and ideas of social acceptability become ingrained and non-malleable anymore. Don’t be that old fart. Embrace change.

        Tons of words have definitions added to them based on popular usage. Take, for example, the recent addition in several dictionaries to “literally”, adding the definition “figuratively”.

        Words and grammar get their meaning from people understanding and recognizing that meaning, not what a book some “authoritative” organization puts out every year. Life is about being happy and having fun, not following arbitrary rules. Formal and profession contexts are a different matter; one should – if they wish to come across intelligent and educated in certain situations – use formal language in formal contexts. But internet comment threads are no such place. Have some fun with your language :)

        Reply
        • Astrogirl1usa -  September 25, 2015 - 9:52 pm

          While, most of what you said is true, to a point; I still believe we should try to uphold the integrity of our language. Proper usage and definitions should be protected and not just ‘thrown out’, because some people misuse words, or phrases. On occasion, some words do evolve, such as when something truly new comes along. However, I don’t think we should be too quick about excepting new definitions and phrases, just because they are a fad at the time. That said, good bye and have a nice day!

          Reply
          • Scholl24 -  October 3, 2015 - 12:46 am

            *accepting

          • Kylea Watkins -  October 16, 2015 - 11:49 am

            I agree with what you said and I do believe we should care about our language so that we do not just utter garbage. However, I do believe that definitions should be added to words if the definition is popular and lasting. Notwithstanding, I think that some words should not be just added to the dictionary for the fun of it. Thank you :)

          • Deebs -  October 19, 2015 - 10:34 am

            Hello I still don’t see the difference between a while and awhile they both are exactly the same. Aren’t they

        • Mich -  March 7, 2016 - 12:12 am

          Mike, you just gave some lengthy opinions on things which you believe, and then, in your last sentence, in gross arrogance, presumed yourself to have the authority to forbid people, evidently more educated, intelligent and mature than yourself, from generously taking the time and effort to attempt to actually educate others, in this particular forum of free speech. Apparently you do not understand the difference between giving a personal opinion regarding a subject from that of attempting to educate with facts, as one understands them to be. As an example, in base 10, 4 +4=8. Yes, that seems irrefutable, but what is understood to be correct is what is understood to be correct, no matter the type of knowledge. So why is correct language usage less correct, simply because it may possibly be different at some point in the future? And why should anyone care if you personally don’t think it is of any importance?
          In your final sentence you state that for anyone to even attempt to put forth, generously, the effort to add to the knowledge of the article for the benefit of others or to express themselves in any way regarding the subject matter, is inappropriate, even to the extent that you would have the gall to chastise them as if they were cursing in church or flashing themselves to others or urinating in public. The arrogance of your immaturity is repugnant. Next, suggesting the way in which they should use language, is not made more legitimate with a smiley face.
          As an example, “Yo Dog, how’s it hangin.’, is slang speech. The article was not about how all slang is great nor was it about any other opinionated topic in the imaginable universe of human thought, including, “having fun with language”, as you so blithely put it. Perhaps I might rightfully impress upon you that I feel that you are obliged to me to speak pig Latin. In jest, on an internet forum, I regularly combine plays on words, allusions, metaphors and similes, twists on phrases, you name it, undoubtedly half of which would go over your head. This article was simply an expert’s explanation of basic facts as that expert understands them to be. Because you are complacent and relaxed in your standards, it makes evident your laziness, as do your negative comments about the article express your obvious insecurity about such of your character weaknesses.
          Even as one would think that scientific fact is set in stone, mathematics is considered to be the only ‘pure’ science, as it is not something which changes in its basic tenets, whereas knowledge of science in general grows and attains alterations and even complete expulsions of certain beliefs by the scientific community as time passes in through history. Were it now 1985 and this were an article about how Pluto is a planet, you would be remiss in arguing with the authors points, as it was an accepted scientific fact, at the time, whereas today it has been voted and declared officially by the currently, international official vetted voting organization of astronomers that it is not a planet. The point in time in our history also is not germane to the points of logic in explaining the difference in ‘a while’ and ‘awhile’. Whether or not you care about the use of language doesn’t have anything to do with the logic in the explanation. You are simply only whining outwardly in response to your inward sense of insecurity about the very existence of an article of knowledge of which you yourself chose to read.
          It simply is time for you to grow up, Mike, and to accept responsibility for the fact that you knew that you were on a site dedicated to the education of people about words themselves, and that you initially wanted to understand something of which you were made curious when you saw it mentioned in a link on said site and that you then actually did choose to click on that link and then that you actually did choose to read the resulting available made article so that you would hopefully remove some of your own ignorance regarding its specific topic. It is hypocrisy in the extreme to then write a lengthy post as to how and why you are in disagreement that the knowledge even exists as accepted current fact, by at least, this current expert.
          Ignorant and lazy people always prefer to complain about things which they do not want to have to put forth the time and effort to learn by rebutting that it may perhaps not be true in the future or simply that they personally deem it to be of no importance. Current accepted official speech and language convention, whether it be an individual case or simply the entire notion of proper language standards in general, being allowed to have any accepted officially understood standards or not, is not yours to mandate upon the world of educated and more intelligent people, else apparently, if all possessed your level of mentality, we would still be living in the stone age or possess the technological advancement of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon or any other people who could easily die from a small infection, like an abscessed tooth.
          Amazingly, it clearly escapes your perception that you yourself have your own standards as to how one should speak, or at least write correctly, else you yourself would not have typed the words which you typed nor in the structure in which you did, nor even with the spelling with which you did in your post unless you, in fact, have your own opinions as to what the currently officially accepted , i. e. ‘proper’, mode of language usage should be for which to express the ideas you yourself chose to express.
          30 years ago, only the very least educated culture in our society uttered the term, “had went”. Now it is commonly spoken throughout the lower educated 2/3 of society. Instead of “I had gone to the store.”, the word ‘went’ is substituted for the word ‘gone’. Else, at least, the word ‘had’ should be omitted, as in “I went to the store.” Take for instance the radical misspelling resulting from the mispronunciation of the word ‘nuclear’ incorrectly as ‘nucular’. I once heard the Head of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency speak it clearly as ‘nucular’ on national TV, as most people in our society do. Would you really prefer to even just have that guy designing or operating a nuclear power plant when he is as ignorant and lazy as that? What if you lived right next door to it? There are many cases of such absurd mispronunciations and misuses of the English language available to annoy the astute, intelligent listener. If those things matter, then why does the above article’s content not matter? Clearly, your thinking comes from gross illogically practiced non – thinking, because for you, apparently, thinking hurts beyond your threshold of mental pain.
          In conclusion, to give an impression as to the importance of people not possessing your particular ‘why would anyone care about standards of grammar’ attitude,…were the Germans like you, I certainly do not believe that anyone would feel safe ever even dreaming of getting behind the wheel of any car which they produced nor would their society amount to much of anything, financially or otherwise. After having practically been bombed to rubble only 70 years ago, they now are the financial powerhouse and technological capital and debt-free, exporter nation of an entire continent.
          Mike, it will be very many years before any disrespectful, immature, idiot kid will be able ever get the notion, by my apparent age, that I am ‘an old fart’, nor am I likely with my genius IQ, to ever find myself embracing change when it is simply stupidity. Mike, as a final parting gift, in the form of a wakeup hint, I inform you that sadly you are unequivocally what is called, quite frankly, and I use slang,… a slacker.

          Reply
          • 12370 -  March 9, 2016 - 3:36 pm

            Mich, you said that Mike “gave some lengthy opinions…”
            When your reply was thrice as long.

      • Stephen Mann -  October 4, 2015 - 8:23 am

        AMEN! I could not agree more with what you said. Grammar is grammar is grammar. But grammar is not taught in grammar schools like it used to be which is why children of today can not speak it right, or is that write, I forget which is witch.

        Reply
        • Rosemary Bolster -  October 21, 2015 - 12:54 pm

          cannot speak it correctly

          Reply
        • Linguist -  October 25, 2015 - 6:16 pm

          Excellent Stephen! You are correct. Appropriate grammar is no longer taught in school (it hasn’t been for a long time in public schools, sometimes in private)
          Cursive hand writing is also no longer taught. The reason cited is that young people are using computers and typing more.
          Great, so when someone hands one of these young computer geniuses a document in cursive handwriting, they will not be able to read it.

          Technically, the English language has no rule against ending a sentence with “at”. However, has society really become that lackadaisical and uncaring about proper speaking? It this where we’re at?
          Seriously, just because there is no official rule demonizing the use of “at” to end a sentence, does not mean that its appropriate to use it. Isn’t that what we all shoulda done?

          People. Wake up, listen up, read up and present yourself as intelligent; whether you is or aint dont matter.

          It’s how you enunciate your words and the correct and appropriate use and pronunciation of words that will draw listeners.
          The problem with young people today – begins with their parents.

          Reply
      • Russell Irvine -  October 17, 2015 - 6:33 pm

        There is a typo(graphical) error in paragraph three, sentence one: “The WORK…”

        In paragraph four you open a bracket and a quote without closing them. By doing so you leave your obviously under-educated audience unsure as to your intentioin and when the quote actually finished. Is the inference to Gone With The Wind the source of your ‘Southern gentleman’? If so there is also an implication of a ‘Souterhn dandy’, where does he fit in?

        Sorry it may be by University degree but I’m having trouble following all of the quotations flying loosely through your lecture!

        Sheesh! Lighten up a little.

        Reply
      • Donald -  October 28, 2015 - 11:45 am

        “Take a listen to”….good grammar?

        Reply
      • Jill Ellen Burwell -  November 14, 2015 - 10:38 am

        As a director of live theater, I listen to my actors’ every word to see if it will convey the correct meaning to the audience. To contend that tone of voice has nothing to do with intention is a ridiculous notion. The voice falls at the end of declaratory sentences and rises at the end of queries.
        Are there exceptions? Of course! This is use of the English language we’re discussing. There are a thousand shades of nuance between the two rules stated above. When a declaration is spoken with the voice rising at the end, it generally connotes a speaker seeking a reaction, most likely positive, to the observation being made.
        English! Ya gotta love it, eh?

        Reply
      • wilwiljames@yahoo.com -  November 23, 2015 - 2:59 pm

        Giselle your explanation found many complaints by critics but I would like to thank you; I found it informative as well as interesting. Not only will I read it again I’ll also have my college bound daughter read it as well as use ever effort to make sure she understands and applies it. THANK YOU !

        Reply
      • writer? -  March 8, 2016 - 1:58 pm

        In the UK a rising inflection at the end of a sentence always indicates question.

        That said, some of the younger generation who have mixed abroad with Americans com back with a rising inflection such that the listener cannot be sure what they mean, ie when making statements that sound like questions.
        Some languages use a rising inflection on statements to make them into questions and rarely use the formal question style.

        I spent a whole session this week with lone teenage pupil trying to iron out his rising inflection at thew end of all his sentences.

        Reply
        • writer? -  March 8, 2016 - 2:12 pm

          PS My mouse is not working well hence lots of typos.

          Reply
    • Arleen Anderson -  October 15, 2015 - 4:17 am

      Excellent trick.

      Reply
  20. while -  August 11, 2015 - 8:21 am

    Wait awhile, while waiting

    Reply
    • Russell Irvine -  October 17, 2015 - 6:36 pm

      A while may wait, while awhile is waiting.

      Reply
      • Deebs -  October 19, 2015 - 10:36 am

        I still don’t get it they both are exactly the same. Aren’t they?

        Reply
  21. Homeboyfreezy -  July 28, 2015 - 6:58 am

    Stay awhile and listen

    Reply
    • Charles R. Black -  August 1, 2015 - 12:29 pm

      I will be home for a while, but only awhile. Then I will while away my time playing golf.

      Reply
  22. SortaSurprised -  June 27, 2015 - 11:27 am

    Perhaps the article had a few errors or was merely the opinion of the author? Being uncertain myself, I’m going to stop reading the comments in awhile and ponder the possibilities for awhile. I’ll just while away some time while I consider if anyone factored context into usage. There’s no more to read once it’s been read.

    Isn’t “awhile” an adverb. . . Perhaps usage should be considered awhile longer.

    Reply
    • Lucy -  July 6, 2015 - 3:11 am

      Yes, “awhile” is an adverb, like “briefly”. If you try to replace all of the uses of “awhile” in your comment with “briefly”, you’ll see that an adverb doesn’t fit in any of your examples. You need “a while”, the noun, which (for purposes of grammar) could be replaced with “a moment”. Or would you write “amoment” …?

      Reply
      • Mamasama -  August 29, 2015 - 7:55 pm

        Good observation, Lucy! It’s those tricky prepositions that were mentioned in the article, “in” and “for”, that tripped up SortaSurprised.

        Reply
        • Andy -  November 9, 2015 - 4:15 am

          Prepositions aren’t tricky. People on the internet are so fucking illiterate.

          Reply
  23. Richard Dansby -  June 23, 2015 - 8:27 pm

    Reading comments regarding ‘a while,’ versus ‘awhile,’ and realizing my lack of knowledge of the only language I speak, and the need to put my thoughts on paper. I think you all, thanks!

    Reply
    • Robyn -  June 28, 2015 - 9:43 am

      Ponder this: If English were a foreign language you were learning, and you were using the extremely effective Pimsleur method to learn it, then your instruction would be 99% or more oral. Therefore, the issue of whether this term should be one or two words in a given case, would never come up. It is a function of the written language, so, to an extent, merely convention. We (especially grammarians) like to force logic onto language, but it develops independent of logic. Long before English spelling became standardized, people were undoubtedly speaking this term, and if they were literate, writing it, with nary a thought as to whether it was one word or two.

      Reply
      • Lucy -  July 6, 2015 - 3:21 am

        But spoken language also follows conventions. Their function is to help people understand each other more efficiently. If nobody followed linguistic conventions, in either speaking or writing, ultimately we would all be speaking unique languages. Of course it can be argued that, for example, it doesn’t matter if “tomorrow” is spelled with one M or two, since everybody will still understand it. But “two” and “to” and “too” all have different meanings, just as the different pronunciations of “bow” have different meanings, and if people use them unconventionally, a reader or listener has to stop and adjust their first assumption of what was meant, which slows down comprehension. Conventions are important in social interaction.

        Reply
        • Lucy -  July 6, 2015 - 3:23 am

          I guess what I am saying is that reading a passage with conventional “correct” spelling and grammar is much quicker and easier than reading a passage full of unconventional “mistakes” … and this justifies having and following the conventions.

          Reply
  24. Lori -  June 23, 2015 - 8:11 am

    For Stacey Anderson: I used to teach college English, and the handbook I used for English 101 and 102 was the Simon and Schuster Handbook for Writers. It has good sections on punctuation and other mechanical matters, as well as more general writing guidance. It is easy to look up a spectfic topics and find a concise explanation. Strunk and White is a bit less thorough.

    Reply
  25. Bill -  June 12, 2015 - 8:01 pm

    Interestingly, the original sense of the root of “while” is “to rest”:

    From Old English hwīl, from Proto-Germanic *hwīlō (compare Dutch wijl, Low German Wiel, German Weile), from Proto-Indo-European *kʷyeh₁- (“to rest”).

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/while

    Reply
    • Bill -  June 12, 2015 - 8:03 pm

      Also, the Scandinavian languages have “hvile/vila” for “to rest.”

      Reply
  26. Milley -  May 12, 2015 - 9:25 pm

    These people busily complain on each other’s comment, while I’m here just being thankful for another knowledge I received today *sipmycoffee

    Reply
    • raymond Schricker -  May 17, 2015 - 10:36 am

      Those words are well said (typed)!

      Reply
      • 1 -  May 18, 2015 - 6:29 pm

        agreed

        Reply
        • I -  November 22, 2015 - 12:27 pm

          totally agree

          Reply
    • The Thumbster -  June 7, 2015 - 6:10 pm

      I completely agree!!! I’m here for some interesting information, not to cause a stir.

      Reply
  27. Nipple Ring -  May 12, 2015 - 10:32 am

    ;3

    Reply
  28. Linda -  May 8, 2015 - 7:17 am

    Really ? So many people with so much time on their hands. Get a life!

    Reply
    • Mamasama -  August 29, 2015 - 7:59 pm

      Perhaps some of us have “a life” that involves trying to make sure we communicate clearly with the others who share it with us. Be kind.

      Reply
      • Abass -  March 26, 2016 - 5:57 pm

        Mamasama….Well said. These arguments are to us blessings in disguise; you don’t know what these comments are doing to us – they are actually teaching us some new things in english. I agree with you 100%.

        Reply
  29. m.j... -  April 28, 2015 - 11:23 pm

    life is great and too much

    Reply
  30. m.j... -  April 28, 2015 - 11:13 pm

    people was thinking positively and get think good……

    Reply
  31. Bored & On the Internet -  April 12, 2015 - 8:06 pm

    Okay.. more random knowledge.

    Reply
    • x -  April 16, 2015 - 2:26 am

      He said he would be home “awhile” vs “in a while” doesn’t just slightly change the meaning, it is two very different things. He would be home “Awhile”: he is already home but for a short time. He would be home “in a while”: he isn’t home yet but will be coming at some undefined time period. It could be short or long I think as you can say a long while or a short while. I think this should have been pointed out.

      Reply
      • christine -  April 26, 2015 - 8:41 am

        Yes! That’s exactly what I was thinking, too!

        Reply
      • teresa -  May 2, 2015 - 4:46 pm

        Thank you very much for the tips!

        Reply
      • Caught My Eye -  May 4, 2015 - 12:40 am

        I believe they only used it that way to show that the differences between the use of the words change the effect of the use. For example, “in a while” is being passively used as a noun to reference any amount of time (regardless of length), where “awhile” is being more actively used as an adverb and, instead, references to something or someone (the subject/noun) being in an act of an amount of time (personally, I think this should also be regardless of length, it could be short or long).

        So they could have used the sentences like:
        “He said he would be home for a while.”
        vs.
        “He said he would be home awhile.”

        But they likely avoided this use purposely, precisely because of the confusion it could cause if the readers didn’t understand the difference between the two just because the sentences meant the same thing.

        Reply
      • Jessica -  July 19, 2015 - 11:38 am

        Thank you so much. I think that article may have actually confused me further. Your concise explanation was perfect.

        Reply
    • You -  April 17, 2015 - 7:26 am

      Okay… if you don’t want to read it, then don’t read it. It’s meant for people who want to learn more ‘random knowledge’ and not for idiots like you who want to just complain about everything.
      I assume you’re American, correct?

      Reply
      • ein -  April 21, 2015 - 3:42 am

        The parent comment is spot on, and they weren’t complaining about anything but making a valid correction. There’s no need to get hostile about it, especially when you’re apparently here for frivolous reasons.

        Anyway, there’s a typo in the article (“be home in for”) which suggests the examples originally matched but that the first was changed without considering the second.

        And no, we are not complaining because we are Americans. We discuss language without getting angry because we are Americans.

        Reply
        • Nothing personal -  April 28, 2015 - 6:40 am

          I’m not in any way trying to disagree with your response to the supreme know-it-all above, i just noticed a slight misunderstanding. You said the srticle had a typo, but, in fact, I think you maybe simply misread it. The sentence is meant to help one to easily determine if “awhile” is appropriate. Because it means “FOR a short time..” the author suggests trying to use that definition after a preposition, ie. “be home IN”. So, to drop in the definition in the words place : be home in “a period or interval..” (a while), or be home in “for a short time..”(awhile). I agree wholeheartedly with your remarks in defense of Mr./Mrs. “x”. Easy to sit in pointless judgement of others when you have nothing valid to contribute and yet deign to suggest that someone else is the idiot. Whoever “YOU” are, you’re nothing but a pompous jerk.

          Reply
          • Paul Howell -  April 30, 2015 - 6:45 am

            Wow. You called that person a pompous jerk. That is no way to treat someone. It’s called cyber bullying and it’s very toxic. You might consider seeking counseling to discover what could be motivating that anger.

      • Julie -  April 21, 2015 - 12:41 pm

        You are right. The purpose of the explanation above is to educate people who want to learn more about the differences between ‘a while’ and ‘awhile’; therefore, the person’s remarks are completely appropriate and welcome because he or she is correcting what the author wrote. His or her observation of the article is indeed very valid. On the other hand, your remarks serve no purpose other than to criticize and belittle someone who is actually trying to make a valid point. One can readily tell the level of your education based on your ethnocentric, disparaging and ill-mannered response.

        Reply
        • Da Boogeyman -  April 23, 2015 - 10:30 am

          I feel enlightened now.

          Rip English. lel.

          Reply
          • GameGirl007 -  December 16, 2015 - 8:13 am

            lol

      • Gina -  March 30, 2016 - 10:49 am

        Well said!

        Reply
  32. Paula -  April 9, 2015 - 12:29 am

    Somebody help me on registers

    Reply
  33. John Gaylord -  March 3, 2015 - 1:20 pm

    I would like to see a similar analysis of the word “momentarily” which is confusingly used to mean either “in a moment” or “for a moment” but which I think should be limited to the latter meaning. I think the word “shortly” is better for expressing the former meaning.

    Reply
    • TonyO -  March 16, 2015 - 11:47 am

      John, I’m inclined to agree about “shortly”, not because of confusion, but for clarity. Context usually betrays in which sense “momentarily” is meant.

      Reply
    • AThought -  March 25, 2015 - 10:05 pm

      “Shortly” is certainly fine here, but another option is “presently”, as in “The doctor will see you presently”, which means that the doctor will see you after a short time period.

      Reply
    • Wahid -  April 9, 2015 - 12:38 pm

      \_(o_o)_/

      Reply
  34. dakyung -  March 1, 2015 - 5:44 am

    ^^

    Reply
    • jc -  March 2, 2015 - 6:36 pm

      that cool brush

      Reply
      • jc -  March 2, 2015 - 6:36 pm

        bruh*

        Reply
        • MJ -  March 23, 2015 - 3:44 pm

          same

          Reply
          • erika -  April 6, 2015 - 2:12 pm

            omg

          • m.j... -  April 28, 2015 - 11:08 pm

            is it nice think to guys………

  35. Shelly Anderson -  February 14, 2015 - 11:12 pm

    I would like some ideas on a workbook (or workbook series) that will help me with basic grammar and punctuation. I have forgotten much of what I learned in high school. I ‘ve gotten some books on the subject but have the attention span of a cocker spaniel and will need to learn small portions at a time. After a few pages I’m already wondering what l’ll make for dinner and the words become a blur. I guess I’m asking if anyone could suggested curriculum that would give me a speedy and basic brush-up on English. Actually answering questions in a workbook might help me stay on task and remember what I’ve learned. Thank you for any suggestions

    Reply
    • Oriana Giudici -  February 22, 2015 - 8:10 pm

      I am not sure about a certain curriculum, but one thing I do know: read, read, read. Throw enough things at the ceiling, and some will stick.
      Obviously, read well-written books, not crap, let alone most of what you find on the Internet. Find a genre you like to read, and get books that have stood the test of time.
      Try to analyze what you read, both for content and for grammar. Maybe read one chapter at a time, so you can mull over it. Read it to your SO (significant other), and perhaps talk about it.
      And have fun, or you might not learn as much.

      Reply
      • Cam Jones -  March 25, 2015 - 8:18 am

        Following your admonition to read “wee-written books” is not necessarily good advice. Reading anything and everything, including material that is not great literary masterpieces is always a good thing. I can’t stand people who think they are literary snobs who turn their noses at fan-fics or the town newsletter.
        You can learn from reading anything.

        Reply
        • Brandy Meredith -  March 29, 2015 - 4:29 pm

          I believe he was referring her to reading well-written pieces for the sake of learning better grammar. If she read nothing but poorly written blogs, she would hardly improve her own grammar, and she might even pick up some bad habits along the way.

          Reply
    • Carol Read -  February 23, 2015 - 9:14 am

      Get the books The Elements of Style, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Grammar and Style. Take your time in learning this. It should not be a rush job.

      Reply
      • Jacob Lewis -  February 26, 2015 - 7:07 am

        I assume you didn’t intend to imply that she was an idiot by suggesting a “complete idiot’s” guidebook to her.

        Reply
        • You -  April 17, 2015 - 7:21 am

          Just because the book is called The Complete Idiot’s Guide doesn’t mean that he was calling her an idiot. Blame it on the people who wrote the book.

          Reply
      • TonyO -  March 16, 2015 - 11:51 am

        Yeah, I’m a big fan of Strunk & White, that little book took me from mediocre writer to pretty adept editor.

        Reply
  36. Stranger From The Internet -  February 8, 2015 - 10:34 pm

    Awhile: FOR some period of time.
    A while: AFTER some period of time.

    “I will be there awhile.”
    “I will be there in a while.”

    I can make this simple “for/after” distinction and remain correct, right? I’m pretty sure I understood it, but I want to make sure.

    Reply
    • Irina -  February 12, 2015 - 8:54 am

      Yes, but what about the expression “FOR a while”?

      Reply
      • Nikcu -  March 16, 2015 - 4:21 am

        for a while and awhile is the same :)

        Reply
    • James -  March 26, 2015 - 1:42 am

      As an American, I would never say:
      “I will be there awhile.”

      Reply
      • Ilse -  March 30, 2015 - 11:51 am

        As a South African I also would never use awhile, it just sounds weird lol!

        Reply
      • You -  April 17, 2015 - 7:24 am

        Why does anybody care if you’re American or South African??? I’ll give you a hint… WE DON’T!!! It’s quite clear that the point of your comment was not to say that you would never say something, but more to say ‘Hey, look at me, I’m an American, so I deserve special rights.’
        Same with you Ilse- we don’t care that you’re South African. It’s basically irrelevant to what the point of your comment should be.

        Reply
        • Jason -  April 27, 2015 - 1:14 am

          English is quite likely the most broadly spoken language in the world. Please note I say broadly and not by the most persons (think China, India).

          What’s interesting about James and Ilse’s comments is that are that words and expressions, even in the same language, may be used differently and bear differnt meanings in other parts of the world.

          One expression that comes to mind is the use of “for now” in North America to mean “at the moment” wheareas in Australia the phrase “for the minute” would be used. The latter sounds completely foreign to me yet it is spoken daily by millions of people with English as their first language. To me, that is interesting.

          As stated previously, your comments are rather belittling and sadly do not bring any value to the thread but rather detract from the conversation.

          James and Ilse’s comments may have been quite brief; we do not always have as much time as we might like to dedicate to hobbies.

          If James and Ilse had omitted their origin, the statements would have been much emptier. We would know that there are two people in the world who would not use the term “awhile”. Knowing their nationalities provides a geographical and cultural context which then allows to ask more interesting questions such as “How did it come to be that in America, one would not say “I will be there awhile.” whereas in the England, the phrase is commonplace.

          I do hope in the future you might be able to see beyond the simplicity of a statement and assume the worst of the authors.

          Quote: “Everyone knows something that you do not. Learn from them.”

          Reply
          • parth -  June 1, 2015 - 11:00 am

            just asking, why you target China and India specifically?

        • Nothing personal -  April 28, 2015 - 7:09 am

          Wow! Don’t know who “YOU” are, but you seem to do nothing except jump in periodically for no reason other than to insult people.Apparently, you aren’t intelligent enough to know that speech is used differently in different parts of the world. Where do “YOU”, who, from what I’ve seen hasn’t offered a single smart, thought provoking, or insightful comment yet, to decide what “WE” care about? I sure as hell don’t need a small-minded know-it-all like yourself determining what “I” care to hear about. Where do you come up with suggesting that “American’s believe they deserve special rights” just because James said as an American he wouldn’t use a word in a certain way? I’ve looked over a dozen comments and twice you disparage Americans. You insult everyone, yet offer nothing. We “Americans” call that kind of pompous belittling “Little Man Syndrome”. Only someone inferior and average would be so consumed with putting others down. Generlly, I wouldn’t waste my time with a bully like yourself, but I was just explaining to my six year old how to deal with little boys like you, so I figured, “What the hell?”

          Reply
          • Nothing personal -  April 28, 2015 - 7:36 am

            Oh, and, Oops! What that should say is “WHO are “You”… to decide what “We” care about. You probably wouldn’t even have noticed. However, if I am mistaken in some way, I’m woman enough to admit it. Harder to admit to being a jerk like yourself, I imagine…

      • Jillian -  July 31, 2015 - 9:45 am

        I, as a Washingtonian (in America) have realized I don’t use the word “awhile” in writing. I probably use it sometimes in speech, but not with much thought. Didn’t realize the two phrases were distinct, and at this point, I’ve been using them instinctively without having studied them before. In a while, for a while…I still don’t use the term “awhile” in writing, it feels wrong.
        Odd. And I don’t say this as an American, per se, but as a person who grew up speaking American-style English. ;-)

        Reply
        • Jillian -  July 31, 2015 - 9:46 am

          Dang and dang that smiling little emoticon, taking over my semi-colon with smile!

          Reply
    • teila -  April 1, 2015 - 8:34 am

      Isn’t that backward? awhile just means a small amount of time; a while means a measure/period/interval of time… which can be 5 minutes or 5 hrs generally depending on the context of the conversation.

      Reply
  37. flozzz -  February 8, 2015 - 3:28 am

    i think in a minute is the same as in a while because you could say in a while it will be done or in a minute it will be done whilst you could say for in awhile i come and finish it or maybe sometime later i will come and finish it they are different but not so different

    Reply
  38. David -  February 1, 2015 - 11:31 am

    This will take a while to make however, I will return in awhile to finish it.

    Reply
    • MamaJ -  February 11, 2015 - 1:04 pm

      I am absolutely crazy about semi-colons. I love them and feel their pain for not being used by most people. I have actually heard them crying.
      This will take a while to make; however, I will return in awhile to finish it.

      Reply
      • David King -  March 26, 2015 - 3:36 pm

        You are not the hero we deserve, but the hero we need.

        Reply
        • Captain America -  April 18, 2015 - 4:18 pm

          I understood that reference.

          Reply
      • Jillian -  July 31, 2015 - 9:41 am

        ;)

        Reply
        • Jillian -  July 31, 2015 - 9:42 am

          That was supposed to be a semi-colon, smiling, not a smiley emoticon. Whoops!

          Reply
  39. JamesS -  January 30, 2015 - 2:11 pm

    I believe that BOTH “while” and “awhile” can be nouns. “While,” as you have stated, is a noun that means “a period or interval of time.” I believe, however, that “awhile” can also be used as a noun meaning “a short period or short interval of time” (forget the word “for” that you associated with it for some inexplicable reason). Thus, the word “awhile” could follow a preposition such as “in.” As a result, it could certainly appear in a sentence such as “He said he would be home in awhile,” which would mean “He said he would be home in a short time or period” – or, in other words, “He said he would be home shortly.”

    Reply
    • MamaJ -  February 11, 2015 - 1:19 pm

      James, I don’t think what you are trying to explain works. I do not believe that “awhile” can be a noun.
      “In a short time or period” is an adverbial prepositional phrase. In that phrase the words “time” and “period” are still nouns and are objects of the preposition. The word “for” was there as an example of a preposition which could be used. He could have used for, in, after, and I am sure there are others which would work, but I can’t think of them at the moment. “Shortly” equals the phrase. Both are adverbs. You cannot just use awhile here and say it is okay because you want it to be. Sorry. You must use “a while” here because it is the needed noun.

      Reply
  40. mike kaludjer -  January 18, 2015 - 6:39 pm

    If “while” is used as a verb, then the addition of the word “away” infers that other words could substitute in different sentences’ meanings.
    Apart from “away’. I thought of no other that could tag along with “while.” From that reflection I suggest that while “while” is a verb it is not a stand alone action.
    Like the noun phrase “a while” and its complementary cousin “awhile”, “while,” other than as a conjunction, needs the companion “away” to complete the definition “to pass time leisurely” at some distraction.
    An accountant cannot while through his day.
    An accountant can’t while into the tax code.

    Reply
  41. Peter -  November 4, 2014 - 7:15 pm

    ok let me ruminate on this for a while.

    Reply
    • Gabe -  November 23, 2014 - 11:38 pm

      I believe you meant, “Okay(comma) let me ruminate on this for a while.”

      Reply
    • Animal Jam -  December 7, 2014 - 6:04 am

      I do not understand what is it

      Reply
      • Anthony Mason -  January 15, 2015 - 8:58 am

        He will be home awhile.
        In this sentence, awhile means that he will be at the home for a short period of time. This implies that he is already there.

        He will be home in a while.
        In this sentence, the preposition “in” is required before a while. The separation of the two words describes how long it will take him to get home.
        This implies that he is not there yet, but he will be soon.

        Reply
        • Uyen -  January 25, 2015 - 8:40 pm

          I totally agree with Anthony Mason.

          Reply
        • Sam Patricio -  April 8, 2015 - 5:42 pm

          Agreed, Anthony Mason

          Reply
        • sheylla -  April 24, 2015 - 6:49 pm

          Agree.

          Reply
    • Bophrey Humgart -  January 1, 2015 - 9:39 am

      Okay, the article said that there were times when the two expressions could be used interchangeably; but unless I missed something, there was no example of that. Anyone care to try for one?

      Reply
      • Rook Mason -  January 4, 2015 - 9:35 pm

        You need to wait awhile.
        You need to wait a while.

        Reply
  42. ben -  November 4, 2014 - 12:54 am

    wat!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
    • bob mont -  October 12, 2015 - 12:32 pm

      and are using that as an acronym as in a “waste of time”

      Reply
  43. Wycliffe -  November 3, 2014 - 3:55 am

    Thanks a lot for that, I will not while away hours in other website but this increasing my knowledge in grammar.

    Reply
  44. Shahab -  November 2, 2014 - 3:44 pm

    Excellent description and example. Learned something today. Thanks

    Reply
  45. Bernhard -  October 28, 2014 - 1:57 pm

    Dont understand

    Reply
    • Me -  November 3, 2014 - 9:10 am

      Example 1: Quite a while went by until they came home.
      Example 2: Oh, I’ll just wait awhile until they come home.

      Hope this is useful!

      Reply
      • Animal Jam -  December 7, 2014 - 6:07 am

        thx thats useful! that is what i call useful!

        Reply
        • Animal Jam -  December 7, 2014 - 6:08 am

          why is your name ‘Me’

          Reply
          • Dorky -  January 12, 2015 - 10:29 am

            Right

          • Snow Leopard -  April 21, 2015 - 6:12 pm

            why is your name animal jam?! HUH?! WHY BRO?!
            lol

          • Jillian -  July 31, 2015 - 9:49 am

            Because YOU already have a different name.
            ;) 8)

  46. mish -  October 15, 2014 - 6:57 am

    i never knew the difference but now i know.
    awhile is an adverb stating shortest time possible while a while, is a noun phrase showing time interval or period.
    it wont take me a while in typing that piece of work.
    it will take me awhile to town.

    hope i got it right.

    Reply
    • Miriam -  December 16, 2014 - 11:26 pm

      Sorry, but I don’t think so. :)
      You wouldn’t say, “It will take me for a short time or period to town.”

      You could say, “I’ll be in town awhile.” because “I’ll be in town for a short time or period.” works. Or to keep the same meaning, you would have to say, “It will take me a while to get to town.”

      Also, the definition says “a short time or period” not THE shortest time possible. The difference between the two words is the part of speech more than a difference in time period.

      Although, I am surprised that they didn’t discuss that a while can mean a short period of time, or a long period of time. But they did say the definition is “a period of time”. “A period of time” can mean any length of time.

      Reply
      • Radar -  January 23, 2015 - 12:33 am

        “”But they did say the definition is “a period of time”. “A period of time” can mean any length of time.”"

        I don’t think so. ” a while”, in my interpretation, is a short period of time. Certainly not “any length of time”.

        Notice the difference in “a long while”, and “a short while” to express the time length.

        It’s been a long while since they’ve been gone. I’ll have to go look for them in a short while.

        Reply
        • 'Ello -  January 31, 2015 - 1:19 pm

          I believe Miriam’s right.

          In your example, you can easily say, “It’s been a while since they’ve been gone, I’ll have to go look for them,” which successfully implies a significant length of time has passed. Otherwise, they wouldn’t need to go looking.

          Reply
        • Nac -  July 21, 2015 - 1:25 am

          I liked English Language as a subject when I was in school High school. In fact, I had want to read it in college but, because of the circumstances that surround me then, I have to change my course line when I was asked to make my choice of course. More importantly, I like to read any English related piece of article or books to broaden my knowledge towards English. I would also like to use this opportunity to request for more helps, so as to enable me know what I am suppose to know in English as a Language. Here is my email address: chizeaan@gmail.com. After reading this, I was only able to understand the differences involved in terms of grammatical usage and the prepositions that go with it, while their meaning to me remain unclear. But to an extent I understood the first “a while” to mean presently, @very soon. E.g I will be there in A WHILE. But when FOR is used @ as short period that won’t take many more days or weeks e.t.c. E.g, I want to be with them for a while.
          Now coming over to “awhile” as an adverb and what I think it implies when used depends on the sentence construction. Lets take for instance, if you did something few minutes or hours past and someone comes to you asking you when you did the very thing, you can easily reply him or her by saying, “I greeted awhile ago or I did it awhile ago”. It simply means “not quiete long or shortest time possible” Another example. You got into a big office expecting any among the workers to attend to you, shortly someone came and to you, please dear just wait awhile, we shall attend to you shortly… So you teach me ooo via email @chizeaangmail.com

          Reply
    • Jacob Lewis -  February 26, 2015 - 7:19 am

      Correction: It will take me a while to get to town.

      Here’s a better example though

      “I will be in town awhile,” which means that you will be in town for a short period of time, is interchangeable with “a while.” Note that it is only interchangeable if you add a preposition.

      “I will be in town FOR a while.” See that it has a very similar meaning.

      Reply
      • Hugh -  April 9, 2015 - 11:30 pm

        To me, those have opposite meanings.

        ““I will be in town FOR a while” usually insinuates you will be in town for a LONG period of time.

        Reply
  47. david -  October 8, 2014 - 6:49 am

    thank you for that grammar tips am now aware.that is great

    Reply
  48. Noah -  October 7, 2014 - 4:49 am

    So where was “awhile” defined? I never saw it. Awhile is an adverb that means that whatever action it describes will last for some short amount time.

    “That will take awhile yet.” = “That will be take a bit more time yet.”

    In this case, awhile is modifying the predicate “take”. It is a predicate adjective.

    “A while” is used when while is the prepositional object of a sentence. It is not a predicate adjective.

    “That will be done in a while.” = “That will be done in some time.”

    Notice the use of the preposition “in”. That makes “a while” an object. It is a noun. This is the key point: they say almost the same thing, but one is an adverb and one is a noun.

    I don’t think that 4 paragraphs of nonsense were necessary.

    Reply
    • Jonathan -  October 13, 2014 - 5:24 am

      For the definition of “awhile,” look in paragraph 2 on lines 4 & 5. Also, none of the paragraphs were nonsensical and unnecessary. 3 & 4 contain example sentences necessary to show how to use each word correctly. And in the latter three paragraphs, the Dictionary.com people basically said what you said in your reply; just in a somewhat different style is all.

      Reply
      • ,jl, -  November 3, 2014 - 2:08 pm

        yeah

        Reply
    • Rosemary Schmid -  November 2, 2014 - 9:24 am

      Native speakers of English (an assumption) like Noah might think that lengthy explanations and examples of confusing words are unnecessary. (“4 paragraphs of nonsense”) Someone who is learning English. however, needs what is included in those paragraphs to understand both the subtle differences between two words and the grammatical “metadata” that the learner might or might not have studied.
      Words like adverb, predicate adjective, and prepositional object are terms that allow for what I call grammarspeak. People who learn a language the “natural” way don’t know a preposition by its label.Yet, even a 2-year-old knows the difference between “in” and “on” and a 4-year-old knows the difference between “shot” (the noun) and the past tense of shoot (the verb).

      Reply
      • Agree! -  January 31, 2015 - 1:23 pm

        Thank you for that. His post was unhelpful and ridiculous.

        Reply
  49. Tun -  October 7, 2014 - 1:37 am

    Thank you very much.

    Reply
  50. alta -  September 26, 2014 - 7:56 am

    When does one use go lay down or go lie down and all the other related variances?

    Reply
    • ammar -  September 29, 2014 - 5:46 pm

      awhile for future and past, while u can only use for past

      Reply
      • ammar -  September 29, 2014 - 5:47 pm

        and present

        Reply
    • James -  October 8, 2014 - 4:44 am

      lie down = lying in bed
      lay down = laying down a bowl of fruit on the table

      the tricky thing is that the past tense of “lie” is “lay.” So you would say:

      I lay in bed all night last thinking about laying a new doormat in front of the house.

      Reply
      • Kirti -  November 4, 2014 - 8:18 am

        As per my learning from your comment i think “lying a doormat ” would go rather than what you wrote because “I” was thinking to do a job in future which is not yet done and “lay” being the past tense of “lie”, as you mentioned, would not fit in there ! …

        Reply
        • Wendy -  November 21, 2014 - 2:49 am

          Wouldn’t ‘laying a new doormat’ be future perfect? So it would by Laying not lying.

          Reply
        • Meghan -  February 2, 2015 - 6:58 pm

          In that case, Kirti, laying a doormat is placing a doormat; therefore, the correct future tense would be “laying” not “lying”.

          My English teacher always told us to think of “lie” v. “lay” by remembering that “lie” means “to be supine or prone or to recline” and that both “lie” and “supine” have an “i”, while “lay” means “to place” and that “lay” and “place” have an “a”. That’s how I’ve always remembered how to use each word in the present tense.

          James is correct to point out the past tense provides confusion. The main tenses of “lie” are “lie, lay, lain, lying” and of “lay” are “lay, laid, laying”. To throw another wrench in the gears, there’s also “to lie” as in “to be untruthful”, the other tenses of which are lied and lying. I love English. ;-)

          Reply
  51. Will Robinson -  September 25, 2014 - 9:39 am

    This is a good example of why I always dreaded grammar classes. The people who understand the rules do a terrible job explaining them. I going to guess that the use of either awhile or a while will be conveyed to the reader. Thanks anyway.

    Reply
  52. Tara -  September 20, 2014 - 6:51 pm

    Hmmm… I guess I never say, “He will be home awhile.” I would always say, “He will be home for a while.” Wouldn’t adding the preposition ‘for’ eliminate the need for the word ‘awhile’? I don’t think I have ever needed ‘awhile’. Whew! I was worried I had been writing it wrong all these years. Apparently, ‘awhile’ isn’t in my active vocabulary.

    Reply
    • Lily -  November 3, 2014 - 2:05 pm

      It makes sence I gess i know I migh sound unsure but I think they should be a space between ice words .then it will make since to me

      Reply
  53. rheik1 -  September 20, 2014 - 3:49 am

    I didn’t think it was great at all, and in fact Mon$t3r’s answer shows s/he at least still doesn’t get it, since it should be “Now it won’t take me a while…” (Substitute “an hour” and you’ll see why)

    The rule is : “awhile” has to stand alone, without any preposition at all. “She typed awhile, then she took a break”. But: “She typed for a while, then she took a break” / She typed and after a while she took a break.”

    If there’s a preposition, split “a” and “while”. If you can substitute a unit of time, split “a” and “while”. “A while back…” “A while ago…”

    Reply
  54. edward -  September 18, 2014 - 7:45 am

    “a while” ==> one can use the “a” to remember that this is an ADVERB phrase.

    Reply
    • raymond Schricker -  September 18, 2014 - 5:53 pm

      This is a great mnemonic, edward :-).

      Reply
      • raymond Schricker -  September 18, 2014 - 6:08 pm

        Well, actually “a while” is a noun. i typed too soon. lol.

        “The two-word expression a while is a noun phrase, consisting of the article a and the noun while, defined as ‘a period or interval of time.’”

        “The one-word awhile is an adverb that means ‘for a short time or period.’”

        Reply
  55. Barbara -  September 17, 2014 - 8:02 pm

    Great! Love learning

    Reply
  56. M0N$T3R -  September 17, 2014 - 6:15 am

    Now it won’t take me ‘awhile’ discerning the difference between them anymore!….

    Reply
    • Todd -  September 19, 2014 - 7:18 pm

      You mean “Now it won’t take me a while discerning the difference between them anymore!”

      Reply
    • Tara -  September 20, 2014 - 6:53 pm

      I think you meant, “It won’t take me ‘a while’ discerning the difference between them anymore.” Still confusing to me too!

      Reply
    • Binbila -  September 20, 2014 - 9:49 pm

      That is a wrong use of it, idiot !

      Reply
    • Merry -  September 21, 2014 - 1:34 pm

      I think you meant, “Now it won’t take me ‘a while’ discerning the difference between them anymore!”

      Reply
      • Shellheart -  October 8, 2014 - 12:06 pm

        I think you meant, “Now it won’t take me ‘awhile’ discerning the difference between them anymore!”

        Reply
        • kira -  November 17, 2014 - 3:18 am

          it was so nicley written

          Reply
          • Dorky -  January 12, 2015 - 10:32 am

            You spelled nicely wrong

  57. Janise -  September 16, 2014 - 1:30 pm

    Thanks for this explanation! I usually just go with my gut or intuition when deciding between “a while” and “awhile”, but now I have a concrete explanation why!

    Reply
  58. Vilka -  September 11, 2014 - 5:28 am

    This was a useful and succinct explanation. The best I’ve seen online.

    Reply
    • Dorky -  January 12, 2015 - 10:31 am

      I sense sarcasm in your typing.

      Reply
    • alex -  February 12, 2015 - 8:31 am

      shut up nerds

      Reply
      • SH -  April 12, 2015 - 8:03 pm

        Oh, do your research! They’re not nerds, they’re high-functioning sarcasm comment analysts!

        Nerds are more on the mathematical side of the internet. You couldn’t classify them on the grammatical either, because they did not make a grammar correction.

        Reply
        • JW -  April 12, 2015 - 8:05 pm

          Go find a case and stop correcting the Internet..

          Reply
        • A Nerd -  May 6, 2015 - 8:00 pm

          Actually, nerds are everywhere, there is a nerd for everything, I know, as I am one.

          Reply
  59. Nishant dhankhar -  September 6, 2014 - 3:40 am

    Good

    Reply
    • THE BOSS -  November 6, 2015 - 1:58 pm

      Good, remember, to be or not to be, no idea who that came from or who’s quote that is but here’s mine, BIBTO (Band Is Better Than Orchestra) sorry to you orchestra players out there, my friend is considering on going and joining orchestra, and quiting band.

      Reply

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