awhile / a while

People often confuse the adverb awhile with the noun phrase a while. This is hardly surprising because they sound the same and the noun phrase can function like an adverb. In many cases both forms are acceptable. You can say It took a while to get down the hill, where a while functions like other noun phrases such as an hour or a long time. You can also say It took awhile to get down the hill, where awhile functions like the adverb phrase quite long or the comparative adverb longer.    1
  You may want to be careful using a while after prepositions, where traditional grammar calls for a noun as object. Thus you should write I?ll stay for a while, but not I?ll stay for awhile. Without the preposition, either form is acceptable: I?ll stay a while or I?ll stay awhile.    2

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