Submitted by elizabeth  •  May 16, 2004

‘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."

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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
http://ucp.uchicago.edu:2001/search97cgi/s97_cg...

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Directly from Dictionary.com:

"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)."

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these information help a lot, thanks!

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