While learning a new language, the usage of many words can end up being confusing for us. However, with the right understanding, we can master the language. Some words mean almost the same thing but are very different in their usage.

It is quite probable that we can get confused between ‘while’ and ‘for’ and how to use these words correctly. In this article, we will explain all the differences between the two words and if there are any similarities between the two. The article also discusses the individual meaning of the two. 

So, what is the difference between while and for? ‘While’ is usually used in a sentence when we want to talk of an action that took place during a certain time. It is also used in comparisons. ‘For’ is mainly used when you intend to give something to someone or when you want to express how a certain thing is used for a purpose.

Read on to find more about the usage of the two words and also the differences between the two.

What is ‘While’?

We usually use ‘while’ in a sentence when we want to explain something that happened during a certain time. It explains something that happened at the same time.

  • ‘I read the letter while you slept’
  • ‘Can you get some chores done while you are in the city’
  • It is also a generalized term for some amount of time, a length of time. 
  • ‘Looks like John is going to be here for a while’
  • ‘She stayed at Maya’s place for a while and then left’

‘While’ can be used to compare two people or two things. It can also be used to give the meaning of ‘although’.

  • ‘John is more extroverted while Mary prefers her books’
  • ‘I did all the assignment work while he slept away the whole day!’
  • ‘While this is a good purse, I do miss my old one’
  • ‘While I like restaurant food, I find my mom’s cooking to be better’

What is ‘For’?

‘For’ is used when you intend to give someone something or it is used when you want to express something for a certain purpose.

  • ‘The parcel is for Sara’
  • ‘There is a message for you, Sophie’
  • ‘He used up all the papers for drawing’
  • ‘He wanted them for his program tonight’

‘For’ is used for the comparison of something that is different from others of the same category. ‘For’ is also used to indicate a relation to someone or something as well.

  • ‘She is tall for her age’
  • ‘He is very mature for his age’
  • ‘I have a lot of respect and admiration for people like her’
  • ‘He seems too noisy for me’
  • ‘For’ is also used as a synonym of because.
  • ‘He did not say anything for the sake of peace’
  • ‘She left for he did not appreciate her efforts’

Differences Between While and For

It is a little difficult to understand the differences between the two words ‘while’ and ‘for’ and it is also tricky to understand their usage. Below are the few prominent differences between ‘while’ and ‘for’:

With Respect To Time

‘While’ is usually used to describe an action that takes place during a certain time or during a certain situation.

  • ‘Rose was reading the book while Jose went out to get dinner.’
  • ‘I talked to her while you were sleeping.’

‘For’ is a term used to indicate a length of time or to indicate how long something went on.

  • ‘This TV show lasted for 5 years.’
  • ‘Amber was here for a while’

Comparison

‘While’ is used to compare people or things and the meaning goes something along the lines of the word ‘but’

  • ‘She gets a bonus while I get none for the same work’
  • ‘Tom is quite talkative while Moly is more introverted.’
  • ‘While the new office atmosphere is nice, the old one held a lot of memories’

‘For’ is used for comparisons as well, but it is used to compare one thing with the others of the same type. 

  • ‘The summer has been unusually hot for California this year.’
  • ‘He is not very kind for someone who knows how it is to struggle.’
  • ‘He is not very mature for his age’

Comparison Chart: While Vs For

WhileFor
TimeIt is used to indicate something that happened during a particular time or event.Usually used to indicate the length of time
ComparisonsWhile is used to compare to things, mostly like how we use the word ‘but’ for comparisonsFor is used to compare something that is different from others of the same type. Sometimes, it is used to discuss something unconventional.

Similitudes Between While and For

Both ‘while’ and ‘for’ can be used for comparisons. Both the words can be used to compare the differences between the people or the things talked about. 

  • ‘She is very tall for her age’
  • ‘He daydreams a lot for a practical person’
  • ‘While he is fit for the job, she is more capable of proper decision making’
  • ‘While the new bookshelf is beautiful, the old one was special’

In all these sentences, you can notice that ‘while’ and ‘for’ are used to compare two different aspects. The sentence construction, however, would require either the usage of while or for and it is not interchangeable. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean when someone says ‘for a while’?

When someone says ‘for a while’ that want to talk about an action that takes place for a short period of time. Usually, the amount of time s unspecified in the context.

‘Ria stayed at home for a while’

In the above sentence, the speaker wants to tell us that Ria stayed at home for a short period of time. 

‘She talked to me for a while and then left’

In the above sentence, ‘she’ talked to the speaker for a short, but unspecified amount of time before she left. 

References