Top Tips for IELTS

Connectors: contrast vocabulary

This lesson looks at a way to improve your essay writing skills by using a greater range of connecting language to express contrasts. As you read, you will see that using this language will extend the range of grammatical structures you use. This matters because the examiner does not only look at the range of vocabulary you use, s/he also looks at the range of grammatical structures.

Variations of “Although”

What you will find below are some variations of the word “although” – a word that everyone should be familiar with. As you read the words, make sure you look at the examples and notes too. It is not just a question of learning a list of words, you also need to note the grammar too.

Group 1 – in spite of /despite/notwithstanding


  • “in spite of” and “despite” have the same meaning and grammar
  • “notwithstanding” is used in the same way as “despite” and “in spite of” – it is really quite formal though
  • be careful not to use “despite of” – that is incorrect; also note that “in spite of” is 3 separate words
  • note “despite” and “in spite of” can be used with nouns and -ing forms as well as verb forms: doing this makes use more interesting grammar
  • if you use a verb form with these words, you need the “the fact that”

Group 2 – while/even though/nevertheless


  • all these words are used with verb forms – typically they are used at the beginning of the sentence
  • “even though” has the same grammar as “although”: it is just a little bit stronger
  • a variation of “even though” is “even if”
  • “nevertheless” and “nonetheless” are pretty much the same: note the spelling of them as one word
  • “while”can be used to express contrast as well as time

Group 3 – much as/no matter/as


  • “much as” is a very strong form of “although” – another variation of it is “however much”
  • “no matter” is normally followed by “how” and an adjective (“no matter how harmful”)
  • if you want to use “as” for contrast, you need to an adjective before it (“harmful as it is”)

A health warning – the risk/reward ratio

You do need to be a little careful here though. While there is a reward in varying your connecting language, there is also a risk. The problem is many of these have their own particular grammar and the danger is that you will make more errors in using them. I strongly suggest you:

  • do not simply learn a list of words
  • look at my notes on how they are used
  • try the practice exercises at the bottom of the page

The exercises

You will a variety of exercises here that should help you understand the different grammar of these words and phrases. Don’t worry if you don’t get the sentence joining exercises 100% correct – they’re supposed to be difficult!  It’s not a right/wrong type of exercise, rather I am trying to get you to think.


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8 Responses to Connectors: contrast vocabulary

  1. Reema July 4, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    Thank you very much for all your effort..

  2. pankaj December 19, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    Dear Sir

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    wish merry christmas and many many happy returns of new season.

    regards & thank


    • Dominic Cole December 19, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

      Thank you for the sentiment and compliments of the season to you too.

  3. pankaj December 19, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

    the training section is great


  4. NITHIN October 18, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    usefuL……… each page of your blog gives me something new.

    bon voyage

  5. Alexandro April 10, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    Hello! I have one question. We were writing essay about ” value of three farming companies ” notwithstanding the fact of our teacher: value as “profit” ,, we understood value as “price”

  6. Amr September 13, 2013 at 5:52 am #

    What is the difference between ( while ) and ( whereas ) ?

  7. pari September 21, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

    thanx a lot to give us this kind of information about keywords. it is very lucrative for English speaking students.. however ielts students also can improve their writing tasks with the help of these connectors.

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