While vs. Whilst: Difference between Them and How to correctly use them

“While” vs.“Whilst” is among the few most misused English words. “While” and “Whilst” have different spellings but similar common meanings. Generally, “While” or “Whilst” is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “during the time that something is happening” or “at the same time as something else is happening.” “While” and “Whilst” are generally used to compare two things. It separates one clause from the other. However, they have quite a few differences. The spelling of “While” and “Whilst” is not their only difference. They are different in terms of functions in the sentence. 

The differences and comparisons between ”While” and “Whilst” are listed below. 

  • “While” is used to describe time and compare two things.
  • “While” functions as a noun, verb, conjunction, or preposition in a sentence. 
  • “While” is intended for American readers
  • “Whilst” is only used to describe the contrast between one thing and another.
  • “Whilst” functions as a conjunction or preposition.
  • “Whilst” is intended for British readers.

Content writers must know how to use “While” or “Whilst” to write better content and communicate more healthily. The author must know first what words to use. To know what word is supposed to be used, determine the desired meaning of the sentence and who the target readers are. Use “while” if the intended readers are American. For example, “The children play outdoors while the parents watch over them.” On the other hand, use “whilst” if the intended readers are British. Additionally, do not use “whilst” as a verb or noun. For example, “The customers waited for a whilst before getting served” is wrong. The sentence should be “The customers waited for a while before getting served.” 

Content writers must know the difference between “While” and Whilst and when they should be used in a sentence. So why is it important to know the difference between “While” and “Whilst?” It is essential to know the difference between those words for content and marketing, mainly because improper usage leads to a confusing article or content. Readers are likely to get confused when the wrong word is used. The author is going to have a hard time executing effective communication with their readers. 

What does “While” Mean?

The word “While” is a common English word that typically refers to the period when short and marked by the occurrence of an action or a condition. According to the Oxford Dictionary, “While” is defined as “during the time that something is happening” or “at the same time as something else is happening.” “While” acts as a noun, verb, preposition, and subordinating conjunction in a sentence. The word’s meaning generally varies based on its function in the sentence. It is an important word for daily life mainly because it helps compare two things. “While” as a noun and conjunction has been first used before the 12th century. As a noun, the word came from the Old English word “hwile” or “hwil” from Proto-Germanic, meaning “a space of time.” Proto-Germanic is a language derived from the proto-language of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European languages. “While” as a verb means “to cause the time to pass” or “to occupy someone or something for a time.” On the other hand, the word as a preposition was first used in the 15th century. It is one of the three most common prepositions of time, along with “For” and “During.” “While” as a conjunction is used to connect two separate clauses that occur at the same time. Whereas “While” as a verb was first used in 1635. 

What are the sentence examples with “While”?

Listed below are the sentence examples with “While.”

  • “The students spent a while looking for the library in the school.” The word while functions as a noun in the sentence. It states that the subject took ample time to locate the library in the school. 
  • “The children while away the summer days playing and spending time with their families. The word while functions as a verb in the sentence. It states that the subject has spent or used their time doing something.
  • “The young couples met while attending the same university. “The word while functions as a conjunction in the sentence. The word connects one independent clause with one dependent clause.
  • While the teacher is discussing in front of the class, the students at the back have their own discussion.” The word while functions as a preposition in the sentence. It is used before a noun or pronoun to show the time when the two occurrences are happening.

When to use the word “While” in a sentence?

The word “While” is used when writing content in the American English language for American readers to understand. The word must not be used if the intended readers are British or from the United Kingdom. Additionally, the word “While” is used to replace words such as “whereas” and “contrary” to compare two things. Typically, the word is used for the comparison of two different things. For example, “The house in New York has a garage, whereas the house in Tennessee does not have a garage.” Content writers are allowed to replace it with the whereas while it has the same meaning. The sentence would now be, “The house in New York has a garage, while the house in Tennessee does not have a garage. 

How often is the word “While” used in a sentence?

The word “While” is regularly used in a single sentence more than once, given that they serve different functions in the sentence. The sentence is still grammatically correct if “while” is used in the sentence more than once, as long as it does not have the same function. For example, “While the teacher is discussing in front of the class, the students while away time conversing with one another.” The example sentence shows that the first “While” describes the time when the teacher is discussing at the same time the students are spending their time. On the other hand, the second “while” refers to an action word that indicates the process of the students spending their class time talking with each other.   

What are the synonyms of “While”?

The word “While” has various synonyms. These words are “when,” “during”, “whereas,” “but,” and “although.” There are some cases that”when,” “during”, “whereas,” “but,” and “although” have the same meaning but must be used on different occasions. For instance, the word “when” refers to a specific time. For example, “The mother cooked when (while) the children were playing.” The sentence indicates the time or period when the subjects are doing something. The word “while” is allowed to be used instead of “when.” However, the other words do not. Using the word “but” or “although” to replace the word “when” is going to create a whole new meaning to the sentence. For instance, “The mother cooked, but (while) the children were playing.” The sentence now seems incomplete, or the wrong accompanying words were used. The word “but” compares two different things or actions. The sentence should be “The mother cooked, but the children kept playing and missed dinner.” The same goes for the word “although.” For example, “The mother cooked, although (while) the children were playing.” It has the same meaning as the word “but.” It is an incomplete sentence as well and is going to mean different compared to when the word “when” is used. Despite being synonyms of the word “while,” they must be appropriately used to convey the right message in a nutshell.

What does “Whilst” Mean?

The word “Whilst” has the same meaning as “While.” It is one of the synonyms of the word “While.” Only the word “Whilst” is the common British English word for “While.” The word “whilst” is defined as “during the time that something is happening” or “at the same time as something else is happening” based on the Oxford Dictionary. The word came from the Late Middle English “whilest,” “qwhilste,” “whiles,” or “quilest,” meaning “period of time,” and was first started to be used in the 14th century. However, unlike the word “While,” the word “Whilst” does not function as a noun or verb. The sentence example shows that the parents and teacher chatted for a while about the parents’ son,” the word “whilst” is not allowed to replace the word “while.” It is incorrect to say, “The parents and teacher chatted for a whilst about the parents’ son.”

What are the sentence examples with “Whilst”?

The word “Whilst” functions only as a conjunction and preposition. Example sentences using the word “Whilst” are, “The young couples met whilst (while) attending the same university.” “Whilst (While) the teacher is discussing in front of the class, the students at the back have their own discussion.” The word “Whilst” is used as a conjunction and preposition in the two example sentences. The word connects two clauses that state two occurrences are happening at the same time.  

When to use the word “Whilst” in a sentence?

The word “Whilst” is used when writing content in the British English language for British readers to understand. Typically, only British people use the word “Whilst.” They use it instead of using the word “While.” “Whilst” must not be used if the intended readers are American, as it confuses them. Additionally, “Whilst” is used to replace “While” and its other preposition and conjunction word synonyms. The word “Whilst” compares two things. Typically, the word is used for the comparison of two different things. For example, “The house in New York has a garage, whilst (while) the house in Tennessee does not have a garage.” The content writer uses “whilst” instead of “while” to make the sentence understandable to the British readers.Instead of using the word while the writer replaces it with the word whilst to make more sense to British readers.

How often is the word “Whilst” used in a sentence?

The word “Whilst” must only be used in a sentence once. “Whilst” is used to connect and compare one thing, phrase, or clause to another. The sentence is grammatically incorrect if “whilst” is used more than once in the sentence. The reason is that it is going to be vague on what the other clause is being compared to. In addition, the single sentence is going to be wordy. 

What are the synonyms of “Whilst”?

“Whilst” and “While” have similar definitions, in fact, “whilst” is one of the synonyms of “while.” However, the other synonym of “while” is not the synonym of “whilst.” Remember, “whilst” only functions as a conjunction and preposition, in contrast with “while,” which functions as a noun, verb, conjunction, and preposition. The synonyms of “Whilst” are “whereas,” “while,” and “as.” For example, “As (Whilst) the father works, the mother takes care of their children.” The “whilst” is a preposition that indicates two different things occurring simultaneously; the father works, and the mother takes care of the children. Another example is, ”Diana is 19 years old, whereas (whilst) Keanu is 15 years old.” The word “whereas” replaced the “whilst,” which is a conjunction with comparing two things.

What is the pronunciation of “While” and “Whilst”?

The words “While” and “Whilst” both have a silent H, meaning the letter “H” is not pronounced when dictating the words.  Nevertheless, the two words still differ slightly in their diction. “While” is pronounced as “wa-il.” In contrast, “Whilst” is pronounced as “wa-isl.” 

Comparison between “While” and “Whilst”

The table below shows the comparison between the terms “while” and “whilst.”

WordDefinitionContextFormsExample Sentences
WhileDuring the time that something is happeningUsed to describe time, actions, and for comparisonNoun, Verb, Conjunction, and Preposition“The students spent a while looking for the library in the school.” 

“The children while away the summer days playing and spending time with their families.” 

WhilstDuring the time that something is happeningUsed for comparison only.Conjunction and Preposition“The young couples met whilst attending the same university.”

Whilst the teacher is discussing in front of the class, the students at the back have their own discussion.”

Why are “While” and “Whilst” misused and interchangeably in English?

“While” and “Whilst” are misused because of having similar meanings. The two words are defined as “during the time that something is happening” or “at the same time as something else is happening.” However, they are used for two distinct readers. These are Americans and British. “While” and “Whilst” are interchangeable as well. “While” is utilized instead of “Whilst” if the readers are Americans or if the company of the content writer is American. On the other hand, “while” is replaced by “whilst” if the readers are British or if the company of the content writer is British or European.

Are “While” and “Whilst” the most commonly misused English words?

Yes, “While” and “Whilst” are one of the pairs of English words that are most commonly misused. “While” and “Whilst” are a pair of Misused English words primarily because of their similar definitions. They are utilized in different contexts for distinct readers and have various functions in the sentence, despite “While” and “Whilst” being both correct.

What are the other similar Misused Word Pairs like “Whilst” and “While” in English?

Listed below are similar misused word pairs like “Whilst” and “While” in English.

  • Canceled and Cancelled: “Canceled and Cancelled” are similar to the misused word pairs, such as “Whilst” and “While” mainly because they are both correct terms and have the same meaning, but differ in usage. The terms “Canceled” and “Cancelled” means something that is not going to happen or take place. “Canceled” is the American English spelling, while “Cancelled” is the British English version.  
  • Fulfill and Fulfil: The words “Fulfill” and “Fulfil” have a similarity to the misused word pairs like “Whilst” and “While” primarily because they are both correct words that have the same meaning, but have a distinction in usage. The definition of the terms “Fulfill” and “Fulfil is similar, which means to carry out or achieve something. The difference between “Fulfi”l and “Fulfill” is that the first word is the American English spelling, and the latter is the British English version.  
  • Color and Colour: “Color” and “Colour” are similar to the misused word pairs like “Whilst” and “While” particularly because the words are correct and share the same definition, however, their usage is different. The words ”Color” and “Colour” have the same meaning, which refers to the aspect of an object that one sees when light is reflected off it. “Color” is the American English spelling, while “Colour” is the British English version.
  • Favorite and Favourite: The words “Favorite” and “Favourite” have a similarity to the misused word pairs like “Whilst” and “While” mainly because they are both correct words and possess the same meaning, but has usage differences. The meaning of the terms “Favorite” and “Favourite” are similar, which refers to the preference for something over another. “Favorite” is the American English spelling, while “Favourite” is the British English version.

What should a content writer consider in using the words “While” and “Whilst”?

There are a few factors a writer must consider when using the words “while” and “whilst.” First, the writer must know the target readers. The article’s readers must understand the content of what they are reading. Content writers must keep in mind the right usage of words. The words to be used must align with the type of reader to properly convey the right message and to prevent bounce rates on a webpage. An excellent content writer must be aware of the E-A-T in search engine optimization (SEO). E-A-T refers to expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. They must exhibit proper usage of words, such as “while” and “whilst” for the content writers’ articles to rank in the search engine. Content writers must know their target readers to know what word is supposed to be used. The content is going to have a higher E-A-T score, resulting in an influence on Google’s search engine ranking. 

Can content writers use “While” and “Whilst” in one sentence?

No, content writers are not allowed to use “While” and “Whilst” in one sentence. The two words are intended for diverse readers. “While” is intended for American readers. “Whilst” is designed for British speakers. It must not be used in one sentence mainly because it is going to confuse the readers. The only time the two words must be used in one sentence is when they are being compared with one another. 

How do Content Writers use “While” and “Whilst” in their articles?

Content writers typically use “While” and “Whilst” in their articles to connect the two phrases. Most of the time, “While” and “Whilst” are used to compare one thing to another. However, their usage varies depending on the writer and the intended readers. Content writers working for British or European companies that speak British English must use the word “Whilst” in content writing. On the other hand, Content writers working for American companies must use the word “While.” Apart from comparing, content writers use “While” as an action word to indicate the subject of the sentence is “spending time.” Additionally, content writers use “while” as a noun of the sentence to indicate the “time when something occurred.”

Do Content Writers use “While” and “Whilst” in the wrong way?

Yes, there are instances that content writers use “While” and “Whilst” incorrectly. Since “while” is the most common word to be used rather, mainly because there are over 300 million Americans in the United States alone in 2022, according to the census. On the other hand, there are only more than 60 million British in the United Kingdom alone in 2022. It is only natural to use “While” instead of “Whilst.” Additionally, American English is more commonly taught in other countries besides the United States. On the contrary, British English is only taught in a few countries, such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland. There are instances in content writing that writers use “while” instead of “whilst” despite their readers being British or speaking the British American language. Furthermore, some content writers use “whilst” instead of “while” even if their readers speak American English. 

Do Misused Words such as “Whilst” and “While” affect SEO and UX?

Yes, misused words such as “While” and “Whilst” affect Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and User Experience (UX). Grammatical errors like incorrect spelling and usage of words in writing unintentionally change what authors want to convey. The sentence is going to convey a different meaning to the reader in instances where a word is misused in a sentence. Additionally, a word with the wrong spelling conveys unprofessionalism. Moreover, incorrect grammar disturbs the flow of one’s writing as it influences the user experience of a reader and causes misinformation. It gives the impression that the author is not knowledgeable, skillful, or credible enough to write high-quality content. Quality content matters in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Most websites that rank top contain quality written articles. Poorly written articles with misspelled and misused words are going to hurt a website. According to surveys conducted by some agencies, on average, 59% of consumers would not buy from an online shopping site with bad spelling and poor grammar. 

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