This pesky little issue of when to use “awhile” or “a while” used to confuse me. I see them being used interchangeably, but that is not grammatically correct. It took a few explanations to find one that helped me figure out which one to use, so I’m going to pass this knowledge on.
But first, let’s go over the differences. Awhile is an adverb and literally means “for a while” or “for a time.” So it acts as an adverb typically would, where a while doesn’t since it’s a noun. This is key to distinguishing which one to use.
Basically, if you aren’t sure of which one to use, try substituting a noun or an adverb and see which one makes sense. If an adverb makes sense, you use awhile. If a noun makes since, you a while. Let’s do some practice examples of this.
Take the sentence “Go walk awhile.” Now let’s replace it with a different adverb. “Go walk quickly.” Makes sense, right? A noun wouldn’t in this case. “Go walk year.” See? So awhile is correct in this case.
Now let’s do an example with a while. “Go walk for a while.” See, this sentence is a little different than the previous one. “Go walk for a quickly” wouldn’t work this time due to the preposition “for” being used. But if you replace it with a noun, it makes sense. “Go walk for a day.” So if a preposition is being used, like in this case, it’s a big clue that you need to use a while instead of awhile since you are dealing with a noun and not an adverb. If you’re still not sure, try the noun vs. adverb test.
Hope this helps!