While or Whilst?
While or Whilst?If you're British, you can use "while" or "whilst" interchangeably. If you're American (or writing to Americans), use "while."
More about "While" and "Whilst"Americans find "whilst" quaint, old-fashioned, or literary. Most Brits, on the other hand, will swap happily between "while" and "whilst," although some Brits also find "whilst" a little outdated.
Is There a Difference between "While" and "Whilst"?Grammarians often discuss two differences between "while" and "whilst," but neither of these ideas is well supported. Nevertheless, for completeness, here they are:
Claimed Difference 1: The Time Factor. Some grammarians engaged in the "while-whilst" debate claim that, in the meaning "during the time that" or "at the same time as," "whilst" should be used for a short period of time, and "while" should be used for a longer period of time. For example:
- Swim while the weather permits. (Some claim you should use "while" for a long period of time.)
- Swim whilst the tide is rising. (They also claim you should use "whilst" for a short period of time.)
- While she was swimming, the seagulls stole her lunch. ("Was swimming" is an example of the past progressive tense.)
- While/whilst I am a strong swimmer, I will not enter these waters.
"While" As a Noun or Verb"While" and "whilst" are not always interchangeable. They are only interchangeable when they are used as conjunctions (i.e., in the meanings outlined above). "While" can also be a noun or a verb. "Whilst" cannot. As a noun, "while" means "a period of time." As a verb, it means "to pass time" (usually at a leisurely pace). For example:
- I lived there for a while. (Here, "while" is a noun.)
- She used to while away the hours in the meadow. (In this example, "while" is a verb.)
It's Different for Americans, Australians, Brits, and CanadiansCanadians and Americans, use "while" unless you're trying to add a sense of the old fashioned.
Brits and Australians, use whichever one you want, but if you need to play it safe, use "while" unless you deliberately want to add a sense of the old fashioned.