Hello! Download our free grammar guide here.

Awhile vs. A While

Elizabeth O'Brien

Hello! I'm Elizabeth O'Brien, and my goal is to get you jazzed about grammar. 

Learn More

Awhile vs. A While

You've probably noticed that this can either be one word (awhile) or two words (a while). Do you know when to use each one? Do you know which one to use after a preposition like for or in? Here's the scoop!

A While (2 Words)

When a while is two words, a is an adjective and while is a noun meaning "a period of time."

awhile or a while?

This is the version that you would use after prepositions like the words for and in. Prepositions must have a noun or pronoun after them. (Prepositions are always in prepositional phrases, and a prepositional phrase consists of a preposition and a noun or pronoun called the object of the preposition.)

Since while is a noun, we can use this two-word version after prepositions. 

We watched the show for a while.

I'll be back in a while.

Here are sentence diagrams of those two sentences. You can see that the prepositions (for and in) are on slanted lines and the object of the preposition (while) is on a horizontal line after it.

For a while and in a while are prepositional phrases.

sentence diagram

We watched the show for a while.

Sentence Diagram

I'll be back in a while.

Awhile (1 Word)

When awhile is one word, it is an adverb that means "for a short time."

AWHILE in the dictionary

Awhile is an adverb. Since prepositions need an object of the preposition after them (a noun or pronoun), this one-word version is not the correct choice after a preposition.

We watched the show for awhile. --> Incorrect

I'll be back in awhile. --> Incorrect

You need the two-word version after a preposition. 

Now you're probably wondering when you would use awhile. Well, it's an adverb, and remember that adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. With this particular adverb, I can only think of examples of it modifying verbs. 

Sit awhile.

Henry and Jane talked awhile.

The adverb awhile is modifying the verbs sit and talked. We diagram adverbs on slanted lines under the words they are modifying.

Sentence Diagram

Sit awhile.

Sentence Diagram

Henry and Jane talked awhile.

I know it's a bit confusing because the definitions for while and awhile are very similar. Just try to remember that awhile is an adverb and while in the two-word version a while is a noun.

Elizabeth O'Brien from Grammar Revolution

If you don't want to teach or learn grammar by yourself,  click here to see how I can help you.

If you want to teach or learn grammar the easy way, follow our step-by-step program which clearly lays everything out and allows you to move at your own pace. The Get Smart Grammar Program is presented in a logical sequence, so it's not an overwhelming mishmash of information. Just watch the videos and complete your assignments. Before you know it, you'll be a grammar and sentence diagramming pro!

The Get Smart Grammar Program
The Beginner's Guide to Grammar Ebook

Our Free Guide Gives You A Fun Way

To Teach And Learn The Basics v

Download Now
Elizabeth O'Brien

Elizabeth O'Brien is the creator of Grammar Revolution.

Her lessons are guaranteed to give you more confidence in your communication skills and make you smile. :)