Is it correct if you spell "awhile" in one word, or are there some specific contexts that require this expression only split, into "a" + "while"? Is there any rule or hint to help you remember when to use the correct spelling in order to avoid any type of error in your writing?
We are going to offer you the answer to all these confusions in a minute!
A While vs. Awhile
The word "while" is basically a conjunction, used in several contexts as a reference to time, to a certain period, most frequently as a synonym for "during". So as a noun, "while" or "a while" defines a certain period of time, either short or long.
"Awhile", on the other hand, is an adverb. But dictionaries define it ever so similarly as they explain "a while". The word also refers to a period of time. An exact replacement for "awhile" would be "for a short time". So as you can observe, there are two main differences between "a while" and "awhile": one is grammatical and the other is related to the actual message or meaning of these words. Grammatically, "a while" is a noun and "awhile" is an adverb. As for their meaning, "a while" refers to a certain period of time, which can be both long or short, whereas "awhile" is only referring to a short period of time. Let's see how these spellings are used correctly in the right sentences.
When do we use "a while"?
"A while" can be used to indicate both a longer or a short period of time.
Example 1: Let's wait a while and see what happens. - in this case, "a while" refers to a short period of time.
Example 2: He's been missing for a while and I'm getting worried. - here, "a while" indicates a long period of time.
When do we use "awhile"?
Unlike the noun "a while", the adverb "awhile" is only used to indicate a short period of time.
Example: Let's wait awhile and see if it works. - "awhile" is an adverb synonym to the expression "for a short time".
The essential thing to remember to avoid misspelling or confusing "a while" and "awhile" is that the first is a noun defining a certain time, either long or short, whereas the latter is an adverb indicating only a short period of time. Otherwise, both structures are correct and can be used in quite similar contexts.