Wait a while. Okay. How long is a while!
Just so you know, when you go to Dictionary.com and type in a while, this is what you get:
No results found for a while
Does that mean they looked and gave up? hmmmm
Just so we are all on the same page, it’s actually while. Which is a noun. Remember that? Person, place or thing thing?
- a period or interval of time: to wait a long while; He arrived a short while ago
Oh, and awhile means something totally different. You knew that, though!
- for a short time or period
Now I’M confused.
Is it once in a while or once in awhile?
The correct phrase is “Once in a while“, as two separate words. As “awhile” is an adverb, it wouldn’t make sense to say “Once in awhile“. See @V0ight’s comment: Replace ‘awhile‘ with any other adverb, like ‘rarely’ or ‘seldom’ and you’ll see it makes no sense.
It can mean a long time, but for certain “for a while” means that the period of time is longer than “just a second” or “just a minute” especially if the “while” part of the phrase is emphasized. It can mean anything from longer than “just a minute” to a long time depending on context
So, maybe this will clarify:
Goodness, I wasn’t confused until I started this whole thing!
Anyway, when saying to your kids: In a while. How LONG is that? I say it’s less than two hours. It would have to be longer than a half hour, don’t you think? Because, then you would say, in a few minutes.
You can modify it with short and long while. A long while, to me, means days, months and maybe even years. A short while is hours.
Good grief. If you say while over and over, it starts to sound funny. I feel like it’s a word I’ve never heard before. While, while, while, while, while. Now, it looks funny.
Sheesh! I’ve got to take a break. I’ll talk to you in a little while!