The Grammarphobia Blog

Whiling away time

Q: Should we wait “awhile” or “a while” between servings?

A: Both of the following sentences are correct: (1) “You should wait awhile between servings.” (2) “You should wait for a while between servings.”

“Awhile” is an adverb meaning for a time. (The “for” is inherent in the word, so “for awhile” would be redundant.) But “a while” is a noun phrase meaning a period of time.

So you could correctly say, “We sat awhile, drank coffee for a while, and laughed once in a while.”

More than a little confusing, aren’t they? The general rule is that you use two words (“a while”) after a preposition and one word (“awhile”) after a verb.

If you want to while away more time on this subject, check out my Aug. 28, 2006, blog item.

I hope this helps, and don’t gulp your food!

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