whilst vs. while [British English]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by carolinaque, Feb 23, 2017.

  1. carolinaque New Member

    New York
    English - United States
    U.K. friends, how common is "whilst" in everyday speech? I'm editing a manuscript that takes place in Scotland (though the characters are from England), and I've been marking all instances of "whilst" because it seems so formal and foreign to my American ear.

    Is someone born and raised in England more likely to say: "I wish we could have paid you more whilst we were gone," or "while you we were gone"?

    Thanks in advance for your insight!
     
  2. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    'Whilst' is very common and in ordinary use, not at all formal, though 'while' is several* times more common. That's going by British texts overall. There may be regions where 'whilst' is more common.

    * Ten times more common: I had misremembered; I thought it was about six or seven.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2017
  3. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    Greece
    British English (Sussex)
    I don't think I've ever said or written "whilst" in my whole life.

    For me, it's literary/poetic/old-fashioned.
     
  4. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    I use whilst... and while... (and I am not at all old-fashioned, although I do not like modern beat-combos with their long-haired crooners.)
     
  5. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Panj said in a previous thread that whilst is common in Northern Ireland: click. It may well be common in Scotland too.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2017
  6. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    I'm not Scottish either... :oops:
     
  7. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Nor me, and I also use whilst on occasion. I only mentioned Scotland because that's where carolinaque's manuscript is set;).
     
  8. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    In the North, 'while' can mean "until", so they have a reason for prefering 'whilst' for the other meaning.

    I must admit I don't say 'whilst' myself, but it seems to be quite ordinary in the writing I see.
     
  9. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    An occasional whilst (and even amongst and amidst) user myself, and it doesn't sound stuffy to me.
     
  10. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    I'm not sure whether I use "whilst" in speech: Does anyone have any recordings of me? If I do use "whilst", I'm sure it will only be "on occasion", to use Loob's expression, and that "while" dominates.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2017
  11. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    There is a story, maybe apocryphal, of a level-crossing in Hull which had the notice "Do not cross while the bells are ringing." And the locals all waited obediently until the bells rang - and then crossed... :D
     
  12. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Though Paul's story, which I've heard from many other people, may be apocryphal, I did once hear a chap in Sheffield use "while" in the sense of "until", so yes, he probably preferred "whilst" for the other meaning.
     
  13. carolinaque New Member

    New York
    English - United States
    Thank you all! I think I'll let her have "whilst." Sounds like she has her reasons.

    Also: very interesting to know that "while"* can also be used for "until."

    *Edit! I used "whilst" but meant "while."
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2017
  14. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    I did live in Hull for some years and while for until was the way in which it was always expressed:
    "Wait while I come before you do that."
    "You will have to wait while Christmas if you want one of those.", etc.
     
  15. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    I don't think any of us has said that, carolinaque. We've said that "while" can mean "until" in the North of England.
     
  16. carolinaque New Member

    New York
    English - United States
    You're right! Working too quickly. I've edited my comment to reflect this.
     
  17. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    Greece
    British English (Sussex)
  18. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England

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