A WHILE or AWHILE?
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*Singing* Hi. James from EngVid. I'm going to take off my bag and my hat, I'm going to stay awhile. I've been doing these videos for a while now, and I've got a question for you. I said, "I'm going to stay awhile," — "stay awhile", and then, "I've been doing them for a while." Do you know the difference between "awhile" and "a while"? Probably not, because they sound the same, right? This is one of those mistakes people make in English when they write, that you really can't see when they speak. Today's lesson: "A while" and "awhile". Love it, don't you? Anyway, welcome to the EngVid video. We have been doing this for a while. When I said, "for a while", I said something distinct. 'Distinct' means special or unique. What it was, was "a while". I said the article, then this word. "While" by itself means time; it just means time, that's it. "A while", "a" usually comes before a noun, so it means "a time", is what we're saying. This is why "a while", when written like this, means it's a noun. Note the article; the article tells us it's a noun that follows. So it talks about a length or period of time that can be specified. When I say specified, you can give it 1 minute, 1 hour, 1 day, but you don't. You're just saying, for instance, "I slept for a while." I'm saying, I don't know, maybe 20 minutes, maybe an hour; it's not important. But I could say, "I slept for 3 hours," and be very specific. We're using the 'for' here to tell you 'for this amount of time', 'for' this noun. Because time is a noun; it's a thing, an actual thing. I can say to you, as I said, "I slept for a while", or "I slept for 3 hours", or I can also say "This will take a while." 'Take' this (a while). "This will take a month." See how we can just slip in that specified period of time? "A while", month; "a while", hours. If this is so obvious and easy, why do we even have the other one? It just doesn't make any sense. Notice that this is for a noun, so we can use it as a noun; an actual period of time in a sentence. But if we want to actually modify a verb, use it in an adverb way to demonstrate the passage of time, then we use another one, 'awhile'. 'Awhile' is an adverb, funny enough. You just take the article, put it with the period of time, smash it together, and suddenly it becomes an adverb. It's descriptive, and it means 'a period of time'. It actually means the same thing, because it means 'for a time'. Same here; just to modify the verb, just one step closer to the verb. Here's an example for you: "My mother is staying awhile." 'Awhile' is actually modifying this verb to tell us the period of time. It's not a noun here; it's modifying how she's staying. When we do adverbs, it's how something is, how fast... it describes that verb. It's describing the verb here; unlike saying it's a noun. How do we translate that? Let's look: "My mother is staying awhile." If we break it down, remember what I told you? 'Awhile' is the same as 'for a while'. We can say, "My mother is staying for a while." Wow. Then we can go back the extra step and go, "My mother is staying for another month." 'For another month' is describing the length of the stay. "For a while" is describing it, but we're using this as a noun here, and here we're just modifying the verb. Simple enough. 'Awhile' is 'a while' with 'for' built right in it. Simple lesson, easy lesson, but one people make a mistake on time and time again.