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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 5) 
To me, the use of "amongst" and "whilst" is archaic, superfluous, and pretentious - particularly if used in the United States. Hearing them spoken is more painful than reading them. Generally, when I hear someone speak those words I can guess that it's just a matter of time before they will pronounce the "t" in "often" or use the phrase "from whence...".
Words change and evolve, whilst there is allophonic variation. I am 54, and my generation used whilst in writing, but while in speech. How's this: ox, oxen, but not fox, foxen, box, boxen or ax, axen, but they could have been. Webster's dictionary settled a lot of the variations in America, whilst in Britain, which-ever public servant was in charge in the chancellery on a particular day, made an arbitrary decision on behalf of 'Her Majesty's Government' and the Empire. ( This is according to a television documentary I saw, so it must be true Emotion: giggle.
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CalifJim, I am 16, and I live in England. I use these words rather frequently, whilst I use their counterparts very little. Emotion: smile

As far as I can tell, however, there is no difference betwixt the two, and both can be used at one's discretion. Emotion: smile
"whilst" and "amongst" are archaic forms of "while" and "among." Both are rather exclusively British. These forms do not conventionally appear in U.S. English, with exception to very few dialects that are influenced by their proximity to the Canadian border. It still stands to reason that they wouldn't appear in any conventional U.S. speech or writing, and would sound very quirky if actually deployed on a regular basis around here. U.S. English is largely reformed compared to U.K. English. Most of the differences between the two cause U.K. English to appear very archaic to U.S. English-speakers. In some cases, it also appears very uneducated. (which is an attitude influenced by people with Southern dialects favoring word forms like "amongst")

In U.K. English, both forms are considered acceptable; however, "whilst" and "amongst" appear to only be used by a sizable minority of English-speakers in the U.K. (or in other countries based in International English)

Objectively, it's just unnecessary to tag -st to the end of prepositions. It convolutes the orthography of English to try to preserve historic word forms for no other reason other than being raised to speak a certain way. Get with the times, guys. We need to finish evolving away from all the left-over inflections from Early Modern English.
Do we discuss English conventions descriptively or prescriptively? I tihnk a lot of instinct born of individual experience applies. Personally I (a Yorkshireman) find I use 'whilst' as an alternative to 'whereas'. There may be other conditions, but until the next time I find myself using the word, I'm not likely to think through the reasons for doing so.
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As many others have commented, "whilst" is more common in the UK, whereas "while" is more common in the US; however, although both will be understood by readers, speakers, and listeners in either country, they are NOT THE SAME. They do, in fact, have the SAME MEANING, but they do NOT HAVE THE SAME USAGE, because they are slightly different parts of speech.Both typically function as adverbs, but "whilst" is a adverbial genitive. In English these either have "-s" endings "-ce" endings or "-st" endings. Other examples of this formation, just to give you an idea are:afterwards/afterward, towards/toward, once/one, twice/two, thrice/three, hence/here, thence/then, whence/when, amongst/among, amidst/amid, midst/mid, and yes, whilst/while. So many of the above have fallen out of usage that it has become difficult to understand the difference within the pairs of words, and I would state that many are no longer in use at all. But the clearest example that might provide insight into a subtle difference would be that "three" is an adjective whereas "thrice" is a genitive adverb. There are three of something (a noun), but an action (verb) has happened thrice (three occurrences). For this reason, you will notice that many UK posts pointed out that "whilst" feels more naturally used directly before a verb "whilst waiting for the train." The above is the reason why. However, while/whilst and many of the other pairs above are both now equally recognized as adverbs, even though that was not the origin, which clouds the correct usage. Following that same logic, we can examine amongst/among. They mean the same thing, but they might be used differently if wishing to be pure and precise. For example, "He MOVED AMONGST the crowd." contrasted with "There was no DOCTOR AMONG the crowd." Therefore, "WHILE I" eagerly await your replies, I will do further research "WHILST WAITING". :-)
Sorry that was supposed to say:In English these either have "-s" endings "-ce" endings or "-st" endings. Other examples of this formation, just to give you an idea are:afterwards/afterward, towards/toward, once/one, twice/two, thrice/three, hence/here, thence/there, whence/where, amongst/among, amidst/amid, midst/mid, and yes, whilst/while.
in that case, it is just a rearrangement of the sentence (which is incomplete):

I ate popcorn while reading. / While reading, I ate popcorn.

According to my massive Webster's dictionary from 1954, they are interchangeable. However, I personally prefer the explanation (it might have been on the while/whilst page) that whilst is "while still..." indicating continuation. However, according to the officials (now of 55+ years) it seems to be a personal thing
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They're interchangeable. Same meaning. In the journalism world we're taught to drop the 'st' as it just wastes space.