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While vs. Whilst

It has been a while since I wrote anything on Grammar.com. Whilst, it is nice to be back, I would want myself to be regular from now on. Yes, you guessed it right – this article is about to remove your confusions regarding usage of while and whilst. While is more commonly used than whilst, the latter is believed to be even outdated by most Americans. Whilst is mostly used in British English, though way lesser than while. While can be used as a conjunction, preposition, noun or verb, whereas ‘whilst’ is used only as a conjunction or adverb.


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  Ramya Shankar  —  Grammar Tips
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While as a conjunction and adverb

When used as conjunction/adverb, both the words mean during or at the same time as. They can also mean whereas (in the context of comparison). In the above sentence, we can replace ‘whereas’ with while or whilst and both will be correct.

While and whilst are same in meaning when used as a conjunction/adverb.

Examples

Meanwhile – meanwhile indicates between a time period. For example, you are waiting for a bus. During that time, you talk to your mother on phone, while waiting for the bus. This gap is indicated with the word meanwhile.

Note that in all the sentences, we can replace meanwhile and use while. ‘While’ will then join the 2 sentences and make it one. For example, “Finish your homework while I prepare nice dinner for you”, or “While we were talking nicely, our teacher came and scolded us for not doing the class work.”

While as a noun

As a noun, while is used to indicate a period of time.

While vs. Whilst

  • It will take a while for the bus to start.
  • He spoke to me for a while and then left.

Notice the use of ‘a’ in every sentence when we use while to indicate a time-period.

While as a verb

As a verb, while is used to indicate passing time or spending time on things just for the sake of it.

  • Don’t while away your time, study for your exams.
  • Instead of whiling away your afternoons, you can take up some hobby classes.
  • Stitching helps me while away my time when the kids are not at home.

Note that we use ‘away’ along with while.

While as a preposition

Though while is rarely used as a preposition, it is not incorrect. It has the meaning ‘until’. For example,

  • Can you wait while Saturday, so we can go for shopping together?
  • I will not leave her while she feels better.

As we have seen, while is used in many contexts. However, whilst can be used only as adverb or conjunction. While is more common and you should prefer using while over whilst whenever you are in doubt.

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3 Comments

  • EnglishnotBritish
    Not British English, there's no such thing!
    LikeReplyReport10 months ago
    • neekfenwick
      It would help if you provided some context, examples or perhaps a good joke to soften the blow.
      LikeReplyReport 39 months ago
    • carlos_h
      Of course this exists! I saw WHILST in a song from Siouxsie and the Banshees, a British band from the 70's
      LikeReplyReport 18 months ago
  • Anthony Massmann
    I'd reconsider teaching others in grammar, if I used sentences like "Whilst is mostly used in British English, though way lesser than while."
    LikeReplyReport 261 year ago
  • נועם קסל
    It is certainly true that "whilst" is only rarely used in American English. I am not sure, however, that even in those American dialects where it is used in a formal style - it is used in the sense of contrast and comparison, roughly as "whereas". 
    LikeReplyReport 11 year ago

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