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A While and Awhile

Has it been awhile since you thought about how you use awhile and a while? Even if it seems as if you are allowed to use them interchangeably, thou shalt not!


  • He has wasted their time for awhile and he needs to stop.
  • I need you to sit and practice your euphonium a while.
  • I’ll give you your allowance in awhile if you are patient.


Our internal haze about which one is correct under which circumstances has to do with the fact that they sound exactly alike when we say them out loud. Awhile can appear right after a verb — wait awhile, read awhile, dance awhile — while (ha!) the second, a while, needs a preposition such as for, after, or in to be complete. Let’s think about this for a while. I’ll get to your question in a while. Stay awhile so we can chat for a while.


The grammatical key behind awhile and a while is that: awhile is an adverb, and a while is a noun phrase: a noun (while) + an article (a). Notice that if you use the colloquial “sit here for a spell,” nothing could tempt you to write “for aspell.” You automatically use for, and you separate a and spell: three separate words of “for a spell.” Write for a while the same way.

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