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Understanding the difference between despite, in spite of, although & however

Welcome back to another episode of The Art of Business English. On this week’s episode we will be looking at some linking words or conjunctions, that are often easily confused.

Despite, in spite of, although and however, are very similar in meanings, but they are used in different structures. This is in fact what makes people use them incorrectly. Non-native people often place the word in an incorrect structure, making them sound unnatural and less fluent.

So, with that in mind, today I am going to show you the difference between the 4 words and how you can use them correctly. I will also give you some examples to help you put them into context.

Remember, if you have any questions about your English then please send me a voice mail to my speak pipe account and I will be more than happy to answer your questions.

Let’s dive into today’s episode.

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Despite/In spite of

Both despite and in spite of are actually prepositions, and they are always placed in front of a noun or are followed by a verb in gerund acting as a noun.

Understanding this basic rule is essential to using them correctly.

For example:

We decided to go camping despite not having made a reservation. (This is correct)

We decided to go camping despite don’t have made a reservation (This is incorrect)

We went camping despite the cold weather. (This is correct)

I passed my law exam in spite of being sick the day of the exam. (This is correct)

I passed my law exam in spite of be sick the day of the exam. (This is incorrect)

I passed my exam in spite of my poor preparation. (This is correct)

Here are some other common mistakes which I see.

He moved to Spain despite of don’t speak Spanish.

This is incorrect for two reasons: 

1. Despite is never followed by the preposition of

2. Despite is always followed by either a noun or a verb in gerund)

The kids went for a swim, despite that it was very windy and a bit cold. (This is incorrect, despite is never followed by that).

One more thing, if despite and in spite of are used at the beginning of a sentence, then we can add the phrase “the fact that” + subject + verb.

This expression is great for making your speech or writing sound more formal. Let me give you an example.

Despite the fact that we have made many concessions, the other party refuses to negotiate.

In spite of the fact that our company is looking to expand, currently market conditions do not allow for it.

Let’s take a look at although now.


Although is a conjunction and it goes before a clause in a sentence. We use although to link two contrasting ideas or show that one fact makes the other fact surprising.

Importantly, after although we use a subject and a verb and this word can start a sentence or be used in the middle of a sentence to contrast two ideas.

Although we worked day and night, we still couldn’t finish the project on time.

Additionally, although has some very easy to remember synonyms which follow the same rules. These are, even though and though.

Now that we have that clear, let’s take a look at the last part of today’s lesson


As mentioned previously, however is similar in meaning to although, in spite of and despite.

However, is often used to show a contrast between two ideas.

The company was the darling of Wall Street; however, analysts knew something wasn’t right with the accounts.

When we use however to start a sentence, it should be followed by a comma. This is because it is an introductory phrase and we use commas after them.

However, we still need to purchase the material before we can start constructing.

We generally don’t start sentences with however, and in fact use it to form a compound sentence.

The word however, can also be used to mean ‘in whatever manner/way’, ‘by whatever means’ or ‘to whatever extent’.

However we looked at the data, we still couldn’t interpret it correctly.

Are you looking to expand your knowledge of English vocabulary and expressions? 

Grab your copy of my eBook "500 Business English Collocations for Everyday Use". Includes free download audio of pronunciation 

Final thoughts

So, there you have the differences between these often commonly confused words. Make sure you take notes on the typical errors that people make so you can avoid them in future.

If you are interested in improving your general English, then why don’t you enroll in one of my General English courses.

We have levels from Pre-intermediate up to upper-intermediate. These are all video based courses with hundreds of practice exercises to get you improving.

You can view them here.

That is it for another week, see you all next week for another free episodes. 

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Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

Andrew Ambrosius

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