While vs Whilst

Last week, at French lessons, the teacher was writing translations on the board. The two sentences contained the word “while” – we were doing prepositions and conjunctions.

One student in the class called out, “Don’t you mean whilst in the second sentence?”

As these coincidences work, that very week I was working with another colleague, typing up something we were working on. “That while should be whilst. Change it!” directed the colleague.

Mmm. I thought. A food tech teacher correcting me on a point of grammar. But I let it go. It doesn’t matter. Both that she corrected Me and that while and whilst can be used in exactly the same context.

So for the record, they mean the same thing when used as a conjunction in temporal context, when the meaning is “during the time that” or “at the same time”.

Don’t believe me? Well, it is confirmed by the acknowledged authority on English, Burchfield’s The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage. Fowler’s reports that usage has changed to include the meaning of “although”.

Americans have wisely done away with whilst. (Which is why explanation does not appear in Bill Bryson’s Troublesome Words and Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors. Both of which, I own.)

So, whilst you may wish to appear more correct by using “whilst”, indeed you are not. Further, whilst you may or may not wish to sound pompous when using “whilst”, you probably do wish to sound superior; a position at which you have achieved a modicum of success, in a pompous manner.

PS: I do use whilst sometimes too. My last comment was tongue cheek.