I think I spotted an error in the Harvard Gazette, of all places. Check out this headline. I always thought awhile was one word.
Thanks for sending this in, Kim! You're right. There is an error, but it's not what you're thinking. There is awhile, and there is also a while. Their meanings are so close that many people use them interchangeably, but there is a difference between them.
Where does the Harvard Gazette go wrong? It uses the noun, a while, instead of the adverb, awhile.
- A while is a noun meaning "a short spell." It has been a while since I met with Tom.
- Awhile is an adverb meaning "for a short spell." Use it to modify verbs. Let's wait awhile. After school, I needed to sleep awhile.
- When there is a preposition, use a while. (A noun can be the object of a preposition, but an adverb can't be.) Let's sit down and talk for a while. We spoke a while ago.
- When in doubt, try replacing awhile with another adverb, such as "slowly" or "happily." If the substitute adverb sounds fine, then use awhile. If not, use a while.
Let's wait quietly. (It works.) >> Let's wait awhile.
Let's wait for quietly. (It doesn't work.) >> Let's wait for a while.
- Sit down, stay awhile
- Sit down, stay for a while