The Difference Between A While and Awhile

Let’s address the main difference between A While and Awhile:

  • The definition of awhile is “for a period of time.” Awhile is an adverb.
  • A while means “a period of time” and is a noun phrase.

These words are often confused with each other. So, let’s review the differences so you can use them correctly. 

Awhile vs. A While

Awhile and a while sound the same. They also look very similar. The only difference is the space between the a and w. And both words are related to time. So, what is the difference? 

A While 

A while starts with the article a and then has the noun whileA while is a noun phrase. While refers to an unspecified amount of time. So a while is a noun phrase that means “a period of time.”


Awhile is an adverb. It means “for a period of time.” In other words, awhile is the same as saying for plus a while

For example:

Fannie waited patiently for her appointment.

In that sentence, patiently describes how Fannie waited. Patiently is an adverb. You could substitute the adverb awhile in a similar way:

Fannie waited awhile for her appointment.

When to Use Awhile and When to Use A While

A while is part of many common phrases.

“It’s been a while” means that something hasn’t happened for a long time. 

“It takes a while” means that something takes a long time to happen. 

“A while ago” means that something happened a long time ago.

“After a while” means that something happens after a period of time.

It’s important to note that awhile is only used in place of the phrase for a while. So, it would not be correct to use them in any of the phrases above. Awhile is not used with prepositions because it doesn’t make sense to say “come here in for a while.” Overall, a while is much more versatile, and it is used more commonly than awhile.

Example Sentences: 

She decided to keep sleeping awhile longer since she was so tired.

He rested awhile on the bench. 

It’s nice to take a day off every once in a while.

After a while, Patty realized the job wasn’t for her.

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