While writing today, I came across a conundrum of word usage. What’s the difference between “a while” and “awhile”? This type of issue rarely happens to me, since I was an English teacher in a previous life, but I just couldn’t get it, so I looked it up.
Here’s what I found on Dictionary.com:
The noun phrase a while can and often does follow a preposition, such as for or in: “He said he would be home in a while.” The adverb awhile cannot follow a preposition, a rule that makes sense if you revisit the definition of the term and drop it into a sentence such as the one above: “He said he would be home in for a short time or period.” However, if we omit the preposition and rewrite it as “He said he would be home awhile,” the sentence works with a slightly altered meaning.
So, when you have that burning need to know the correct usage of a word, look it up. I went right on writing, satisfied that I was using the proper version!