It was taking me so long to get another grammar tip posted, I knew I needed help. So I emailed my dad and asked if he would be a Guest Grammar Tipper. And he said, “Oy! I can’t do it right now. Maybe tomorrow.” But within an hour I received the following. He is obsessed. That is why I am so weird.
(this is Dad explaining the following rule to my nephew Zev)
A While and Awhile
By Robert Leavitt
Do not confuse a while and awhile. The noun a while means “a relatively short period of time.” The adverb awhile means “for a short time”; in other words, awhile is equivalent to “for a while.” The following examples illustrate the differences.
She spent a while on the telephone.
She was playing cards awhile this afternoon.
Wait for a while before you go out. Wait awhile before you go out.
It’s not always easy to tell which term is correct. A good rule of thumb is that if you can substitute “for a short time” then you can use awhile. See how this works in the next two sentences (and try it in the other sentences here, too).
She waited (for a short time). — Therefore, She waited awhile is correct.
She waited quite (for a short time). — This doesn’t make sense; therefore, you must write She waited quite a while.
If you remember that prepositions (in, after, for, etc.) are followed by nouns, then you can avoid spelling errors in the following situations.
Lunch will be ready in a while.
He got the hang of it after a while.
At the beginning of a sentence, a while is almost always a noun.
A while later, he returned from the store.
A while ago, I received a cheque for $500.
So, stop awhile! Take a while to decide on the correct spelling!