Take a while and think awhile

Oh, for a letter space.

“I didn’t want to tell him I’d turned it in if you were going to hold it awhile.”

This is perfectly correct.

But how often do we find this same word, awhile, busted into two words, a while?

Dictionary.com is a fine resource for sorting this out.

  • A while is a noun, meaning “a short time.”
  • Awhile is an adverb, meaning “for a short time.”

When I’m about to write one or the other, and can’t remember which to use, I think of it this way:

  • “Awhile” (one word) means “for a while” (three words).
  • If “for a while” wouldn’t make sense in the sentence I’m writing, then I must need “a while” (two words).

I often have to stop awhile and think for a while about whether to use awhile or a while.


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