GMAT Preparation

Usage of Although vs. Despite

Due to the similar meanings of ‘Although’ and ‘Despite’, students often get confused between the two words. However, if you pay attention to grammar rules, the usage of the two words is quite different. You cannot replace one with the other without modifying the sentence. This article will help you to understand the difference and use the two words correctly in a sentence:

How to use Although and despite in a sentence. Tips for GMAT Verbal.

1 – What is the role of “although” and “despite/ in spite of” in a sentence?

The two words are used to bring about a contrast between two segments in a sentence. But that is where the similarity ends. The two play slightly different roles in a sentence in terms of the structure of the sentence in which they are used.

1.1     Difference from the point of view of the role

1.1.1       “Although” is a conjunction or a connector that joins two clauses.

For e.g.,

Although he secured high marks in the entrance examination, Joseph could not get admission into the University of his choice.

In the above example, there are two clauses:

Clause 1: (Although) he secured high marks in the entrance examination – this clause is providing additional information about some entity in the main clause.

Note: how do we know it is a clause? Because it contains a Subject-Verb pair ( He – secured)

Clause 2: Joseph could not get admission into the University of his choice. – This clause supplies the main information of the sentence.

Note: How do we know it is a clause? Because it contains a Subject-Verb pair ( Joseph – get)

Thus, we can see that “although” is joining two clauses.

1.1.2        “Despite/ in spite of” is a preposition (followed by a phrase) that modifies either the subject or the verb in the subsequent/preceding clause.

For e.g.,

Despite/in spite of the summer heat, the children were enjoying playing in the afternoon sun.

In the above example, there is only one clause and a phrase.

Clause: The children were enjoying playing in the afternoon sun.

Prepositional phrase : Despite the summer heat.

Thus, the prepositional phrase is modifying the action “were enjoying” in the clause.

So, primarily “although” plays the role of a connector whereas “despite/ in spite of” plays the role of a modifier.

Let’s us see how “although” is used in a sentence.

1.2 – How to use “although”?

As discussed above, “although” connects two clauses. Thus, “although” is always followed by a subject and a verb ( a clause)

The structure is: Although + subject +verb

Let’s look at some correct usages:

  • Although the fever had subsided, Mary felt too weak to get up.
    • (Although + fever + had subsided)
  • I have not lost any appreciable amount of weight although I have been exercising almost daily.
    • (Although + I + have been exercising)
  • Susan’s manager never praised her although she always delivered quality work.
    • (Although + she + delivered)

Note: As shown above “Although” does not always have to come at the beginning of a sentence. It can come in the middle as well. The structure remains the same, though.

Let’s look at some incorrect usages:

  • Although the fever having subsided, Mary felt too weak to get up
    • ( Although + fever + ? instead of verb, we have an “ing” verbal)
  • I have not lost any appreciable amount of weight although exercised almost daily.
    • (although + ? no subject + exercised )
  • Susan’s manager never praised her although delivering quality work.
    • (Although + delivering (can be taken as the subject in the gerund form) + ? no verb)

Let’s now see how “despite/in spite of” is used in a sentence.

2 – How to use “despite/ in spite of”?

As discussed earlier, “despite” starts a prepositional phrase. Thus, “despite/in spite of” is always followed a phrase that contains a noun or pronoun or a verb + ing.

The structure is:

Despite/in spite of + noun phrase/pronoun

Despite/in spite of + verb(ing)

There is a structure where subject + verb can come after despite/in spite of. It is as follows:

Despite/ In spite of +the fact that+ clause (subject + verb)

Despite /in spite of + noun + that + clause (subject + verb)

Let’s look at some correct usages:

  • Despite the summer heat, the children enjoyed playing in the sun.
    • (Despite + the summer heat)
  • Despite having a busy schedule, Johanna gives enough time to her children.
    • (Despite  + having a busy schedule)
  • Despite the fact that she was late for the appointment, Carol took a lot of time getting ready for it.
    • (Despite + the fact that +she + was late)
  • In spite of the storm that was brewing not far away, the mountaineers continued to follow the trail up the mountain.
    • {In spite of + the storm + that + clause (mountaineers + continued)}
  • Jason has caught a chill despite staying indoors
    • {despite + verb(ing)}

Note: As shown above “despite/ in spite of” does not always have to come at the beginning of a sentence. It can come in the middle as well. The structure remains the same, though.

Let’s look at some incorrect usages:

  • Despite there was summer heat, the children enjoyed playing in the sun.
    • (Despite + subject + verb)
  • Despite she has a busy schedule, Johanna gives enough time to her children.
    • (Despite  + subject +verb)
  • Despite the fact that being late for the appointment, Carol took a lot of time getting ready for it.
    • (Despite + the fact that +verb-ing)
  • In spite of the storm  was brewing not far away, the mountaineers continued to follow the trail up the mountain.
    • {In spite of + subject + verb}

Now that we have understood the difference between the two, let’s see the usage being tested in an official question.

3 – “Although  Vs Despite” in action in OG question

Despite its covering the entire planet, Earth has a crust that is not seamless or stationary, rather it is fragmented into mobile semirigid plates.

(A) Despite its covering the entire planet, Earth has a crust that is not seamless or stationary, rather it is

(B) Despite the fact that it covers the entire planet, Earth’s crust is neither seamless nor is it stationary, but is

(C) Despite covering the entire planet, Earth’s crust is neither seamless nor is it stationary, but rather

(D) Although it covers the entire planet, Earth’s crust is neither seamless nor stationary, but rather

(E) Although covering the entire planet, Earth has a crust that is not seamless or stationary, but

Solution

Step 1: Understanding Intended Meaning

Despite its covering the entire planet, Earth has a crust

  • Despite + pronoun + verb-ing – incorrect structure
  • “Despite……planet”  is a prepositional phrase modifying the noun “earth”. The phrase has a possessive pronoun “its”. Given the proximity, “its” should be referring to “Earth”.
  • This is illogical – the Modified entity (Me) and the modifier (M) do not agree logically
    • We need to figure out what is ‘covering the entire planet.’ ‘Earth’ cannot cover Earth.
    • So it must be the Earth’s crust that the modifier phrase starting with “despite” is referring to.
    • The sentence could be restructured in the following manner:
      • Despite covering the entire planet, the Earth’s crust….
      • (“its” becomes redundant)

that is not seamless or stationary,

  • The correct structure to be used is “neither X not Y” and not  “Not X or Y”
  • Here we have a parallelism error.
  • So, the Earth’s crust is neither seamless nor stationary

rather it is fragmented into mobile semirigid plates.

  • We need a connector that will connect the two clauses and indicate a contrast as well.
  • “Rather” cannot connect two independent clauses which are incorrectly separated by  just a comma –
    • Correct version: ,but rather …..fragmented into mobile semirigid plates

Intended meaning:

  • The Earth’s crust covers the entire Earth.
  • Despite covering the entire Earth, the crust is neither seamless nor stationary.
  • Rather, the crust is fragmented into mobile semirigid plates.

Step 2: Eliminate choices with identified errors

Checking for five aspects

  1. Golden rules
    a. MeM does not agree logically
  2. Meaning
    a. Conveys illogical meaning
  3. Lists
  4. Tenses
    a. No error
  5. Idioms
    a. Incorrect use of the structure “neither X nor Y”

Eliminate

The following choice/s have one or more of the errors present in Choice A.

Choice E

Step 3: Evaluate meaning of remaining choices

To be done for Option B, C and D . Detailed out below each choice.

Choice A Analysis

Incorrect and Eliminated in Step 2

Choice B Analysis

Fitting in the original sentence

Despite the fact that it covers the entire planet, Earth’s crust is neither seamless nor is it stationary, but is fragmented into mobile semirigid plates.

  • Correct structure of “despite” has been used {despite + the fact that + it(subject) + covers(verb)}
  • However, there is an error of parallelism
    • Neither X = neither seamless (adjective)
    • Nor Y = is it stationary (clause)
    • These entities are not parallel
    • Right idiom should be “neither x nor y”, not “neither x nor is y”
  • Also, the verb “is” is followed by the subject “it”. This structure is used in questions.
  • The verb “is” is redundant after “but”

Incorrect Choice.

Choice C Analysis

Fitting in the original sentence

Despite covering the entire planet, Earth’s crust is neither seamless nor is it stationary, but rather fragmented into mobile semirigid plates.

  • Correct structure of “despite” has been used {despite +verb-ing)
  • The parallelism error is similar to that in choice B.

Incorrect Choice.

Choice D Analysis

Fitting in the original sentence

Although it covers the entire planet, Earth’s crust is neither seamless nor stationary, but rather fragmented into mobile semirigid plates.

  • Correct structure of “although” has been used (although + it + verb)
  • Parallel idiomatic expression – neither is followed by “seamless”, an adjective, and nor is followed by “stationary”, another adjective.
  • Logical
  • Clear,
  • Same as the intended meaning

Correct Choice.

Choice E Analysis

Fitting in the original sentence

Although covering the entire planet, Earth has a crust that is not seamless or stationary, but fragmented into mobile semirigid plates.

  • Incorrect structure of “although” has been used {although +verb-ing phrase)
  • Other than that, the error is similar to that in choice A.

Incorrect Choice.

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