I've never understood this, and even the head of the English department at my grammar (as in selective secondary, not as in sentence structure Emotion: stick out tongue) school didn't know how to differentiate between them. Are there any points in which one cannot use one or the other of these? I have always used either, though I tend to use the "st" versions, purely because I prefer the sound.

Thanks for your help.
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Comments  (Page 4) 
I disagree with the responder to this post; using 'whilst' is suitable in this example. We should not label incorrect grammar as old-fashioned, this merely encourages younger generations to reduce our language to incoherent one-syllable grunts.

Simon Clarke

Isle of Man
I notice a lot of British use "whilst" in writing (email, blog). I cannot recall hearing "whilst" spoken, e.g. in British movies.

Someone without a British accent just used "whilst" on me, so I now suspect she is Canadian.

-- Bob in New Hampshire, US
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I think the verbal use of whilst etc in Britain (I am English) is playful or very mildly ironic: "you are amongst friends!" etc. Whereas in written English it is used seriously.

While I use both forms of the words that are under discussion, I have never previously given much thought to the matter. Whilst writing, one or the other just seems to flow of its own accord. I came to this site because I wished to know the correct useage. It hasn't helped at all. It has been a great distraction from the book I am trying to write though (whilst browsing).
The fog has rolled in over the ether, and my mind. I asked the same question, and found several good sources last year, all of which indicated that the use of "whilst" or "while" depended on what led of the word that followed, a vowel or a consonant. Now, of course, I can't remember, nor can I find on the internet, the answer. But try looking, you'll find it. Whilst has very limited usage, and by today's American standards, most of them are probably better on the printed page than in the vocabulary, yet whilst is there, and waiting to be used, so why not? Why let the apes always win?
There is actually a subtle difference between the two. They are not interchangeable.

"While" is used simply to link into one sentence two states or actions which coincide whereas "whilst' is used to emphasise a difference between the two states or actions which coincide.

Les Mighalls
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I've always thought these alternate words were used when preceding a word beginning with a vowel. So:

While the election...
Whilst others have said..
In fact, I've discovered there is no formal distinction.

Hoad's etymology gives 'whilst' as a derivation of 'whiles', an adverbial form of 'while'. The 't' on the end is parasitic (cf. among~amongst, amid~amidst, etc.). 'Whilst' started to be used as a conjunction, equivalent to 'while', in the 13th century.
In modern British English, 'whilst' is supposedly a more formal variant of 'while'. It is also, in my experience, particularly beloved of students who write bad essays.

Dominic Watt, Department of Linguistics & Phonetics, University of Leeds
Language economy is not only important it is esential in this day and age. Whilst is not only confusing to the eyes, it is painful to the ears.
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Mmmmm. That would probably depend on the level of education, surely (?) Stereotypically, Sun readers would be much less likely to use 'whilst' (etc), whereas the readers of broadsheets would predominantly do so. There is also an age factor here, which does suggest that the usage is evolving towards obsolescence - this is largely due to the Transatlantic and Estuary English of modern media and communication, but we are not there yet!

It should be noted, though, that the variations are not exclusively interchangeable - the term 'all the while' cannot become 'all the whilst', for instance.

All the while she sat at the dressing table, she combed her hair.


All the while thinking of what to do about the problem, she combed her hair, .

However, if we remove 'All the' to begin the sentence:

While she sat . . . or While thinking

these can alternatively be

Whilst she sat . . .
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