[Image credit: Stuart Miles]

Someone recently asked me the difference between the words a while and awhile and how to use them correctly.  Admittedly, I had no idea there was a difference.  After a little research on my part, I learned that both can be used almost interchangeably in many cases; however, there are a few distinguishing factors to help remember how to keep them straight.

  • A while is a noun, meaning a length of time.  For example, I spent the afternoon writing for a while (versus two hours or 30 minutes).  A while is accompanied by a preposition, such as “for” or “ago” (I finished writing a while ago.)
  • Awhile is an adverb, meaning “for a time,” or, more accurately, “for a while.”  I wrote awhile before retiring this evening (versus wrote intently or wrote organically).

When you write, do you use these words interchangeably or is it easy to keep them straight?