Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Single Words and Multi-Word Phrases

There are some English words and phrases that have a different meaning based on whether they are written as one word or as separate words. Here are some examples:

EVERYDAY v. EVERY DAY. The phrase "every day" is used as an adverb, while the single word "everyday" is an adjective:
  • Every day while her husband Odysseus was gone, Penelope had to contend with the suitors who wanted to marry her.(The phrase "every day" is an adverb explaining when Penelope did this.)
  • Cinderella could not wear just her everyday clothes to the royal ball; she needed something special.(The word "everyday" is an adjective, describing Cinderella's clothes.)
AWHILE v. A WHILE. The phrase "a while" is a noun phrase which you can use with a preposition ("for a while"), but the single word "awhile" is an adverb:
  • It had been awhile since Cinderella's mother had died and her father had remarried.
    (The word "awhile" answers the question "how long" it had been.)
  • Penelope told the suitors they would have to wait for a while - for a long while, in fact - before she would agree to marry any of them.
    (Here the phrase "a while" is the complement of the preposition "for," and it is the prepositional phrase which functions as an adverb in the sentence.)

Here you see Penelope weaving (and unweaving) her work at the loom in order to delay the relentless suitors; visit Wikipedia for more information about Penelope.

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