what's the difference between "a while" and "awhile"?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"A while" means, "a short period of time."

"Awhile" means, "for a short period of time."

"A while" is an indefinite article (a) + a noun (while), whereas "awhile" is an adverb, and complications arise when people treat the two terms as interchangeable. For example, it's perfectly acceptable to say (or write) "for a while," but if you say (or write) "for awhile," you're literally saying (or writing), "for for a short period of time" (you fool).