While

While

[hwahyl, wahyl]
While and whilst are conjunctions whose primary meaning is "during the time that". An example is:

The days were hot while we were on vacation.
I read a magazine whilst I was waiting.

While and whilst can nowadays legitimately be used in the contrastive sense of although or whereas, provided that it is not ambiguous (although some commentators, such as Eric Partridge, have frowned upon such use):

While Sally plays, Sue works.

This sentence can mean either "During the time that Sally plays, Sue works" or "Although Sally plays, Sue works".

Fowler's Modern English Usage disapproves of several uses of "while". At times it is inappropriately used as a conjunctive: actual conjunctions such as "and" should be used instead. Its usage as "elegant variation" is also discouraged, as it is masquerading as a "formal word".

While and whilst

Whilst is synonymous with while in standard British English and Australian English; in American English and Canadian English, it can be considered pretentious or archaic.

Whilst is chiefly used in British English and Australian English. Whilst is synonymous with while in standard English, although to many it sounds slightly old-fashioned, and is rare or archaic. In their style guides, some modern publications on both sides of the Atlantic disapprove of its use (along with "amidst" and "amongst"), for example:

  • Times Online Style Guide: : "while (not whilst)"
  • Guardian Style Guide: : "while not whilst"

Other meanings

In some Northern English and Scottish English dialects, while (but not whilst) usually takes the meaning of until, as in: "I shall wait while you are ready."

See also

Notes and references

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