In any language, words can evolve, disappear, or even gain new meanings as the years go on. The word “whilst” is a great example of this. This word has an interesting history and a unique place in the modern English we use today.
I know it looks and sounds like something an old British royal might say, but it actually has a solid use in the English language. So, I’ll explain what “whilst” means so you can use it correctly!
Meaning of Whilst
“Whilst” is considered a conjunction, and we use it in the same way we’d use “while” or “during the time that.” It acts as a way to connect two clauses or phrases, mostly to describe events occurring at the same time or to contrast two situations.
Also, as you might have guessed, “whilst” is used mostly in British English, and you’ll see “while” used in the same manner in American English. But, since both words have the same meaning, you can use them interchangeably.
When to Use Whilst
You can use “whilst” in formal writing and speech, especially if it’s in British English. Just remember that “while” is typically the preference for American audiences. “Whilst” just makes you sound fancier!
How to Use Whilst
“Whilst” should really only be used to connect two clauses or phrases that describe things that are happening at the same time.
Can You Use Whilst at the Beginning of a Sentence?
Yes, of course! “Whilst” can definitely be used at the beginning of a sentence. Just remember that you have to use a comma to separate the two contrasting phrases. I’ll show it to you in the sentence examples below.
- At the same time as
- Concurrently with
How to Pronounce Whilst
When you’re saying “whilst,” pronounce it as wilest, with a short “i” sound.
Using Whilst in a Sentence
- Whilst I was cooking dinner in the kitchen, my kids were playing with each other in the living room.
- I can’t believe Karen managed to finish her work whilst taking care of her sick child.
- The city has many beautiful parks and green spaces for families whilst offering a bustling urban environment for the younger generations.
- I took the afternoon to hang the sheets on the line whilst I had supper cooking in the oven inside.
- We watched our daughter’s choir sing Christmas carols whilst the snow fell from the night sky. It was beautiful.
- Jacob listened to music whilst studying for his final exams because it helped him concentrate.
- The soap company made significant profits whilst also focusing on sustainability and ethical practices to share with its customers.
If you’ve ever found a fossil or a strange-looking rock whilst on the North Yorkshire coast and wondered what it is, wonder no more. [BBC]
That’s really all there is to say about the subordinating conjunction “whilst.” It’s more common in the UK but is still accepted in American English, so don’t fret too much. Just remember that you can always use “while” in place of it if you’re ever unsure.