The old “a while” vs. “awhile” argument is definitely a confusing one for many since both sound the same. They are even spelled the same if you take out the space between the first option. With such confusion, how do you use these correctly?
Let’s start with “a while.” Since it begins with the article “a,” you can tell that it is a noun. “A while” describes a length of time and you could replace it with another period of time in the same format. Here are a couple of examples:
It has been a while since I went to the gym.
It has been a year since I went to the gym.
As you can see, “a while” was replaced in the second sentence with “a year.”
“Awhile” deals with time as well, but it means “for a time.” Another difference is that it is an adverb, unlike the article-noun combination of “a while.” You can replace the adverb “awhile” with another adverb in a sentence and it would still make sense. For example:
Go run awhile.
Go run quickly.
This is a pretty simple explanation of the usage of “a while” and “awhile,” but you can apply it to your writing in the future.