Awhile vs A while – Learn the difference with this EASY guide + Examples & Quiz

When it comes to the language of business and commerce, the English language continues to remain to be the language of choice. When it comes to the number of speakers all over the world, the English language also has the most speakers. Almost every country has adopted the language in order to be able to trading and other business transactions.
More than that, the English language is widely used in a variety of fields. Most scholarly works were written in English. Additionally, even the language used in most devices utilizes the English language in its program. There is no denying how prominent the English language had been in multiple societal circles.
However, this does not discount the fact how it can be quite difficult for some foreign-language speakers to master every single grammatical principle there is. In fact, even native speakers of the English language are still having a hard time distinguishing some rules. There are English words that can mean a totally different thing by just adding a single letter and even a simple space. In this article, we will be discussing the difference between awhile vs a while

What is the difference between awhile and a while?

When it comes to the word a while, it is composed of two different parts of speech. A while, a two-word expression is called a noun phrase. It consists of an article “a,” and the noun while. By definition, while means an interval of time.

On the other hand, awhile is a singular word. In terms of what part of speech it is, it is categorized under an adverb. The word awhile is defined as “for a short period.”

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How to use a while and awhile like a pro?

When you use the noun phrase a while, most often than not, it is preceded by a preposition-some of the common prepositions found before the phrase is in or for. For example, John said he would be in the store in a while.

In terms of using the adverb awhile, you won’t see any prepositions before it. Technically speaking, by definition, the word already means for a short period or time, so whenever it is being used, this is one tactic to ensure that you are using the word correctly. For example, John said he would be at the store in a period. Although, when it is used with the adverb awhile, John said he would be at the store in awhile, though the sentence still makes sense, there is a noticeable alteration to its meaning. In the new sentence, it would mean that John will be at the store for a short time as opposed to being there for a certain period of time.

Hacks in knowing when to use awhile vs a while

Perhaps the easiest way to know when to use awhile is if you can replace it by using it for a while. According to the Chicago Manual of Style, when asked which is correct, take a while compared to take awhile, the right answer is “take a while.”

When using a while, remember that it comes after a preposition and rarely exists without it. For example, instead of writing, “It took them awhile to get changed.” You can change it to, “It took them for a while to get changed.”

Another way to determine which is the right spelling is to see what part of speech you can use. For example, if a noun is pertaining to time, it can be replaced by using “a while.” On the other hand, if it can be changed with an adverb of manner, it is best to use “awhile.”

For example, in the sentence, “It has been a couple of weeks,” notice the phrase “a couple of weeks”, which is a noun phrase that could be altered to “It has been a while.” On the contrary, in the sentence, “She played beautifully,” instead of using the adverb of manner “beautifully”, you can use awhile. The sentence then becomes, “She played awhile.”

Examples using awhile vs a while

The cafe has placed extra chairs and tables outside their store to cater to the customers and allow them to wait awhile, which is great for their business because most of their food options can be easily eaten on the go.

It took the athletes awhile to prepare for the game because the organizers still had to ensure that every single piece of equipment is in order to avoid any possible accidents.

Every once in a while, it would be great to book yourself a massage to ease tension on your muscles and even promote a better quality of sleep.

When a person loses a loved one, it will take them a while to move forward and see past the grief they are experiencing, but there are others who may never feel the same way.

Test your knowledge

Whether you studied the English language as a foreign language or if you were raised using the language, determining the difference between awhile vs a while can be quite daunting. This example is just one of the many idiosyncrasies of the language, and there are a whole lot more examples that can reveal how complex the language may be. Beyond that, the language continues and will keep on evolving to adapt to its speakers’ needs.

To test your knowledge, try answering this short quiz to see whether you truly understand the difference between awhile vs a while.

  • I took a nap for awhile/ a while.
  • She has been missing for awhile/ a while.
  • She left awhile/ a while ago.
  • Mrs Smith’s lecture continued awhile/ a while before finally noticing that the bell already rang.
  • Once in awhile/ a while, it’s great to go out with old friends.
  • Marcus and his colleagues have been researching awhile/ a while.
  • I wish my professor pauses to let us share our thoughts once in awhile/ a while.


Overall, understanding and knowing the difference between awhile vs a while can still be quite confusing during conversations. However, with enough exercise and usage of the English language, you can master it in no time. Simply remember the tips we’ve shared with you, and you will be able to use the language to your advantage.