Posted by: episystechpubs | September 29, 2020

Awhile or a While?

Hello there!

Today I’d like to tell you a secret. My topic for the day—when to use awhile vs. when to use a while—is one that gives me trouble. I know, I have written about it before, but obviously I didn’t do a good job because I keep forgetting which one to use. I think, perhaps, I finally found a secret that might help me, and possibly some of you!

The following information is from a book I have, called The Gremlins of Grammar, by Toni Boyle and K.D. Sullivan.

Here’s a case where the meaning is absolutely the same. You simply have two ways of expressing it that are equally correct, if you remember one point: awhile means “for a time,” and a while means “a time.” So if you write, “I’ll be on vacation for awhile,” what you are actually saying is, “I’ll be on vacation for for a time,” which sounds silly and makes the grammar check in your word processing program go crazy.

Okay. Let’s try some different examples using awhile (for a time) and a while (a time).

Correct:

After hiking 10 miles to the mountaintop, Rodrigo decided to stay awhile and pick some flowers.

Correct:

It had been a while since Ella had seen her grandmother.

Incorrect:

Petra spent her spare time walking on the beach and picking up rocks for awhile. (In this case, it would be the equivalent of saying “for for a time.”)

Just for kicks, I’ll create a few more, and you pick the correct option. The answers are farther down in the email.

  1. It’s been awhile/a while since I flew to Seattle.
  2. Lyle saw all of his friends from grade school at the party and decided to stay awhile/a while.
  3. Molly and Polly got on each other’s nerves; they decided to live separately for awhile/a while.
  1. It’s been a while since I flew to Seattle.
    (It’s been a time since I flew to Seattle.)
  2. Lyle saw all of his friends from grade school at the party and decided to stay awhile.
    (Lyle saw all of his friends from grade school at the party and decided to stay for a time.)
  3. Molly and Polly got on each other’s nerves; they decided to live separately a while.
    (Molly and Polly got on each other’s nerves; they decided to live separately for a time.)

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/


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