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The Mayfield Handbook of Technical & Scientific Writing
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Usage Glossary: A B C D E F G H I K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y

awhile/a while

Awhile is an adverb and is not preceded by a preposition. A while is a noun phrase. It may be preceded by a preposition (usually for or after); its noun, while, can be modified by an adjective.

Pause awhile and then perform the procedure again. [The adverb awhile modifies the verb pause.]

Pause for a while and then perform the procedure again. [The noun phrase a while is the object of the preposition for.]

We paused for a long while before performing the procedure again. [The adjective long modifies the noun while.]

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