'Awhile' and 'A While' - Conversational English Lesson

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In this lesson we will talk about the difference between the word ‘awhile’ and the phrase ‘a while’.


Faiga: Hello, everybody. Today we’ll talk about two similar ways to refer to periods of time: ‘awhile’ and ‘a while’. Did you notice that the pronunciation is the same?

Quentin:Yeah, it is! This is great! I always get confused when I have to choose which one to use.

Faiga: Not anymore, Quentin. The adverb ‘awhile’ refers to a short time. We never use a preposition, like for, before this word.

Quentin: Ok. So it’s appropriate to say that I’ll go to the mall and only stay awhile.

Faiga: Right. I let my son play awhile after lunch, before he does his homework.

Quentin: You’re a cool mom, Faiga. Does your son like to read? I like to read awhile before I go to bed at night.

Faiga: He does, too! Some people prefer to watch TV, but he’d rather read a good book.

Quentin: And what about ‘a while’?

Faiga: In this case, the article ‘a’ before the word ‘while’ shows us that ‘while’ is a noun; it means a period of time. In other words, I could substitute it for another noun, like ‘year’, for example. And I can use a preposition before ‘a while’, like for a while.

Quentin: I see. Yesterday my brother visited me and stayed for a while; or for a minute.

Faiga: That’s right. On the other hand, we can substitute ‘awhile’ for another adverb, like quietly, for example. I told my son to wait awhile before going outside, or I told him to wait quietly before going outside. The meanings are different, but the structure is the same.

Quentin: I think I got it! I won’t mix them up again. Let’s see some more examples.

Conversation 1:

Melissa: Hi, Joe. Did you get here a long time ago?

Joe: No, I got here a little while ago. Do you want to get a cup of coffee?

Melissa: Sure. But I can only stay awhile. I have a French class in about half an hour.

Joe: No problem. I can’t stay too long, either. We’ll just sit and talk awhile.

Melissa: Do you remember my aunt Matilda? She’s going to be in town for a while and wants to see you.

Joe: Oh, man!! Of course I remember aunt Matilda!! She’s a riot!

Conversation 2:

Joe: I had a great time. The last time I laughed so much was a while ago. Remember when we went to your aunt’s beach house?

Melissa: Of course I do! We would always stay awhile at her house before Christmas.

Joe: Good times. I wish I were a kid again…it would be nice to spend a while just laughing and playing…

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