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‘A while’ vs. ‘awhile’

I’ve always used ‘a while’, but I’ve heard that ‘awhile’ is also correct. What is the difference between the two? Or are they interchangable?

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According to my spot research, I notice that yes, both are perfectly correct as such. However, they are not strictly interchangeable.

"Awhile" is a single adverb. "For a while," that is identical in meaning, is a construct called an "adverbial phrase," or a phrase used as if it was a single adverb.

Be careful here. The phrase "in a while" is also an adverbial phrase, but it is not identical in meaning to "a while" or "for a while."

speedwell2 May 17, 2004, 8:17am

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They are not the same. In fact, I don't know if you can ever interchange them. You cannot, for example change "let's go out for a while" with "let's go out for awhile." Nor can you change "this job will take a while" with "this job will take awhile". "Awhile" is interchangeable with "for a while".

The <i>CMS</i> addresses a similar question

Jun-Dai Bates-Kobash May 17, 2004, 2:18pm

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Directly from

"Awhile, an adverb, is never preceded by a preposition such as for, but the two-word form a while may be preceded by a preposition. In writing, each of the following is acceptable: stay awhile; stay for a while; stay a while (but not stay for awhile)."

IngisKahn June 10, 2004, 11:07pm

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these information help a lot, thanks!

black_magic_022 July 15, 2006, 11:10pm

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Yes     No