Grammar Tip #8: Spend A While With My Dad

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.

Rob teaches Zev some grammar
(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!

2 thoughts on “Grammar Tip #8: Spend A While With My Dad

  1. Omigawd, Sarah, it’s all becoming so much clearer now….I am so sorry, and will be feeling this way for a while, I’m sure. Is there any cure? Is there anything I can do to help relieve you of your burden for a while? And Zeb looks like he’s just not getting it, perhaps your Dad could lighten up for a while and give the poor kid a break. I must stop now, I believe this is contagious. See you in awhile!

  2. Nothing to worry about, Uschi. We are simply training Zev to be a vigilant grammarian when he grows up. And there is no other way to do it. Spare the style guide, spoil the child, that’s what my family has always said.

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