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In spite of and despite – linking words

In spite of and despite are two very useful words, but they can cause problems. Here is a quick lesson to help you use them better and to learn to improve the cohesion of your writing – that’s how it links together. What you will find here is
  • a quick explanation of what they mean
  • the  key grammar with some examples
  • an explanation of how to use them with examples
  • a quick online exercise

Understand what they mean – they are used for contrasts

The first step is to see how you can use these and to understand their meaning. If you take a look at the picture below, you should see the family of words they belong to. They work in the same sort of way as some very common words such as “but” and “although“.

spite

More or less every time you use although you can also use in spite of and despite. e.g.

Although he loved cats, he didn’t like dogs.

Despite his love of cats he didn’t like dogs.

Is there a difference between in spite of and despite?

Not really. They mean exactly the same thing and are used in the same way. It’s worth knowing them both so that you can use them both. It’s nice to have a little variation in your writing.

What grammar do you need?

Well, there are two or three basic variations. The basic idea is that both in spite of and despite are followed by a noun or pronoun. See these examples:

In spite of his unhealthy diet he lived a long and happy life

Despite his smoking habit he lived to be 88

A variation of this is when we use the gerund form (verb+ing). This is much the same thing because the gerund is the noun form of the verb.

Despite eating unhealthily his whole life, he lived to be 88.

In spite of smoking 40 cigarettes a day, he never developed lung cancer.

The other way we use in spite of and despite is with the phrase the fact that. This allows you to use a subject and a verb.

Despite the fact that he did not take care of his diet, he remained healthy.

In spite of the fact that he did not take regular exercise, he stayed in good physical shape.

How to use these words

One reason to practise these words is that they allow you to write slightly more complex sentences by joining two ideas in the one sentence. This is something writing examiners look for when they are grading your grammar. They are particularly useful as they also help the cohesion of your writing (and speaking).

Joining two sentences together

Look at these pairs of sentences. The grammar is ok, but in each case it would work better if you joined the sentences together. Likewise, the writing becomes more cohesive if the sentences are joined by linking words:

People in some families might be able to look after their elderly relatives. They might not be able to remain in full-time employment.

The government has built many new homes for young families. Some couples are unable to afford to buy them.

Humans have contributed to climate change. There are numerous other factors as well.

Before you look at my solutions, try testing yourself a little. Can you link those pairs of sentences using in spite of and despite? To do this you will need to change the forms of some words.

able → ability

contribute → contribution

I should emphasise that this is not a right/wrong exercise. Simply try to maintain the sense and get the grammar right.

See my solutions

In spite of their ability to look after their elderly relatives, people might not be able to remain in full-time employment.

Despite the fact that people in some families might be able to look after their elderly relatives, they might not be able to remain in full-time employment.

In spite of being able to look after their elderly relatives, people in some families might not be able to remain in full-time employment.

Despite the government having built many new homes for young families, some young couples are unable to afford them.

In spite of the fact that the government has built many new homes for young families, some young couples are unable to afford them.

Despite the contribution of humans to climate change, there are numerous other factors.

In spite of humans contributing to climate change, there are numerous other factors.

Other related words and some common mistakes

Are there other words that work like this? Yes. The other common linking words that work in this way are:

  • although
  • even though
  • but
  • however

Mistakes to avoid

  1. When you are writing academically, please try not to start sentences with “but”. Almost all examiners are going to think this is wrong. That is another reason to use these in spite of and despite.
  2. Despite of  is wrong
  3. Inspite is two words and not one word – it is always in spite of

 

Now try a test

Try this test to see what you have learned.

in spite of and despite quiz

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3 Responses to In spite of and despite – linking words

  1. Ashwin March 10, 2014 at 4:00 am #

    Is this question correct?
    In spite of the fact the _______ that he had a number of problems, he still passed the exam. I think the answer has been accidentally revealed!

  2. Pieter March 10, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    I would be glad to receive feedback and a mark!
    (Despite the fact that you will not find any “despite” in my essay, I hope you would not mind to read it…)

    ” In some cultures, children are expected to follow very strict rules of behaviour. In other cultures, children are allowed to do almost anything they want. What are the merits of each opinion? What is your position on the matter? Include relevant examples in your response.”

    Clearly, the way children are asked to behave is strongly depended on the country where they live. Some nations prefer clear rules and their youngest have to obey them. Other countries allow their kids to do what they want and leave them completely free. Both ideas have their advantages.

    Firstly, the more rigid way. By offering a strict pattern of expectations and creating clear rules children get used to discipline. They will experience that when they listen to their parents and obey the teacher they will reach something. When this is taught in childhood they will use this skill as an adult. As a result they will do better at school and it will be easier to stay focused on their study. A better study will give them more career opportunities.

    However, allowing children to do what they want has also its advantages. In this way children are given the opportunity to develop creativity. When children are not told what they should do, they will experiment. Experimenting means learning by trial and error. This encourages their ability to be creative and teaches them that they can do things their selves. For example when a child after many attempts eventually manages to repair a bike’s tire, it is a major boost for its self esteem.

    In conclusion both ways have their merits. Therefore in my opinion there is no preferable way how children should behave. I think it is strongly depending on the child and the situation. Therefore adults should adjust their expectations constantly for an optimal development.

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