'A While' or 'Awhile': Which is Correct Spelling?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on February 28, 2023

Wondering whether to spell the word ‘a while’ or ‘awhile’? We can help with that, plus teach you how to pronounce the word and use it in a sentence correctly.

Need a quick answer? Here it is:

  • ‘Awhile’ is an adverb that means ‘for a while’.
  • ‘A while’ should be used when following a preposition. ‘While’ means ‘a period of time.’

That means they’re both technically the correct spelling.

‘Awhile’ vs. ‘A While’ – What’s the Difference?

As you just learned, the difference between these two words is that ‘awhile’ means for a while.

‘A while’ means for a period of time. ‘A while’ should only be used when following a preposition.

Let’s see some examples, so you have a clearer picture of what both words mean.

‘A While’ Versus ‘Awhile’ – Differences and Examples

We know that ‘awhile’ means for a while, and ‘a while’ means a period of time.

For example:

‘I sat down to read a book for a while.’

For example:

‘She went away for awhile.’

Definition and Meaning of ‘A While’ and ‘Awhile’ 

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of ‘awhile’ is for a while.

There’s no entry for ‘a while.’ However, the dictionary defines ‘while’ as a period of time, trouble, although, and whereas.

It could also mean similarly and at the same time that, as well as until.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘A While’ and ‘Awhile’

Are you unsure of how to pronounce this word? Here’s a short guide on pronunciation.

To pronounce both words correctly here’s the phonetic spelling:

How to Use ‘A While’ in a Sentence

Let’s see some examples of how to use ‘a while’ in a sentence.

  • I haven’t been to the bookstore in a while. It’s time to get a new fiction
  • Alisha’s been gone for a while now. Should someone go check on her?
  • My daughter and I have been apart for a while now. I’m starting to miss her.
  • Tommy’s been playing video games for a while. All afternoon, actually.
  • She was hogging the bathroom for a while.

How to Use ‘Awhile’ in a Sentence

Now let’s see some examples of how to use ‘awhile’ in a sentence.

  • We plan on going to play basketball down at the park for awhile.
  • She’s going to be braiding my hair for awhile.
  • Let’s go outside for awhile. We’ve been in the house all summer.
  • She went to run errands. I think she’ll be gone for awhile.
  • She’s been doing her homework for awhile. Do you think she needs some extra help?

Final Advice on ‘A While’ and ‘Awhile’

To recap, we learned that:

  • ‘Awhile’ is an adverb and it means ‘for a while.’
  • ‘A while’ is used only when following a preposition, and ‘while’ refers to ‘a period of time.’

Therefore, they’re both technically the correct spelling.

If you ever get stuck on anything, don’t be afraid to come back for the right answers. We’ve got a whole library of content on confusing words and phrases that people have issues with while learning the language. Go check it out anytime you need to.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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