Thursday, December 16, 2010

Overheard #40

It's a "snow day" here, and even though we've been hanging out inside today I made my kids go upstairs for rest time.  Miss M gets rest time every day at school, and she needs it.  Mister J needs it too, since we are supposed to be at a Christmas get-together tonight - weather and road conditions permitting.  Here's my most recent rest-related exchange with my mom-napper:

Mister J:  Mom, how much longer?
Me: Please go lay back down.  I'll come get you when rest time is over.

...time passes...

Mister J: Mom, when is rest time over?
Me: In a while. (This was about the 4th interruption by a child who was supposed to be resting...)
Mister J:  How long is a while?

Oh, dear. 


Hartley said...

A while is a noun meaning “a length of time”

* “I slept for a while.”
- (compare with “I slept for a bit” and “I slept for three hours”)

“I was away from my desk for a while.”
- (compare with “I was away from my desk for two minutes”)

Awhile is an adverb, meaning “for a time,” or literally, “for a while”.

* “I slept awhile before dinner.”
(compare with “I slept deeply before dinner” and “I slept badly before dinner”.)

As you can see, the words can be used almost interchangeably in some cases – but a while needs to be accompanied by a preposition, such as “for” (“I slept for a while”) or “ago” (“I left work a while ago”). Awhile always means “for a while”.
Soooooo, surprise, I don't know how long "a while" or "awhile" actually is.

Jess said...

Oh boy!

"A while gets a little further away every time you come down..." ?