Despite / In Spite Of (English Grammar)

Language Focus: Despite & In spite of

Word Form: Prepositions

English Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Firstly, the word despite (without 'in' or 'of') has the same meaning as in spite of. Both words are used for contrast.

Here is a common sentence mistake made by students:

  • Despite he was hungry, John did not eat. (Incorrect)

Why is this incorrect? Because the words despite and in spite of are prepositions, not subordinating conjunctions. This means that after these words, you only need a noun. You cannot put a clause that has a subject and a verb.

Usage #1: Despite / In spite of + noun , main clause

  • Despite his hunger, John did not eat. (Correct = 'hunger' is a noun)

If you want to use a subject ("he") and a verb ("was"), then use a subordinating conjunction such as although/though/even though/while. These words are followed by clauses.

  • Although he was hungry, John did not eat. (Correct)
  • Even though she had a broken arm, she played the game. (Correct)
  • Though the water was cold, we enjoyed swimming. (Correct)

You can use despite or in spite of (they have the same meaning) to express the above ideas. However, you should only use nouns.

  • In spite of his hunger, John did not eat (Correct)
  • Despite her broken arm, she played the game. (Correct)
  • In spite of the temperature of the water, we enjoyed swimming. (Correct)

All of these examples follow this format:

[Despite] / [In spite of] + noun , main clause

This is the standard way to use both in spite of and despite.

Usage #2: Despite / In spite of + Gerund

You can always change a verb (e.g. run) into a noun by changing the verb into the ~ing form (running). A verb in ~ing form that is used as a noun is called a gerund. Because gerunds as treated as nouns, they can come after despite or in spite of. For example:

  • Despite he had no time, he stopped to help.

> Incorrect because 'he had' begins is a clause.

  • Despite having no time, he stopped to help.

> Correct because 'having no time' becomes a gerund phrase. It is not a clause because we have removed the subject 'he'. Because a gerund is treated as a noun, this follows the despite + noun format.

Here are some more examples of gerund phrases:

  • In spite of we arrived arriving late, we found good seats.
  • Despite he was being angry, he let us in.
  • In spite of we ran running out gas, we arrived on time.
  • Despite he didn't order not ordering our food correctly, the waiter seemed like a good person. 

Usage #3: Despite / In spite of + the fact (that) + clause

A clause has a subject and a verb. There are two clauses in the below sentence:

  • Although I was sick, I took the test.

The first clause 'Although I was sick' is a subordinate clause (or dependent clause) which attaches to the main clause 'I took the test'. As we have learned, we do not use despite or in spite of with a clause.

However, there is a trick. If you use 'the fact that', then you can attach a clause after despite or in spite of:

  • Despite I was sick, I took the test. (Incorrect)
  • Despite the fact that I was sick, I took the test. (Correct)
  • In spite of she didn't like me, she gave me a present. (Incorrect)
  • In spite of the fact that she didn't like me, she gave me a present. (Correct)

This usage is valid, but a little long. In my opinion, if you want to use a clause, then it's easier to use a subordinating conjunction like although/though/even though:

  • Even though she didn't like me, she said hello. 

In spite of its injury, the dog continued to explore.

Summary: Despite / In spite of

  1. Despite and in spite of have the same meaning, (but we do not use 'in' or 'of' with despite).
  2. The most common usage is this:  Despite / In spite of + noun, main clause
  3. You can use verbs after despite / in spite of if you change them into a gerund (~ing)
  4. You can use a clause after despite / in spite of if you add 'the fact that'

Here are some exercises that you can use to practice the usage of Despite / In spite of.

Practice Exercises: Despite & In spite of

1. Beverly is 80 years old. In spite of , she's still quite active.

2. Despite  the answer, John didn't say anything.

3. He decided to buy the car despite .

4.  he had just arrived at work, he decided to take a break.

5. The children continued to play outside  the rainstorm.


1. her age 2. knowing 3. its high price 4. Although 5. in spite of

How can you improve your English? The best way is to practice speaking and writing with a teacher who can give you immediate feedback. If you don't have a teacher, there is also free software such as Grammarly that can give you grammar feedback while you type.

That's it. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

-- Written by Matthew Barton of (copyright)

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60 comments on “Despite / In Spite Of (English Grammar)

  1. Anonymous (Posted on 6-27-2019 at 14:02) Reply

    its much helpful

  2. Yos (Posted on 9-26-2019 at 22:59) Reply

    I am a teacher and students ask me …how they identify whether how to use despite and inspite of in the sentence

    1. mb (Posted on 9-26-2019 at 23:17) Reply

      They can use either. It’s their choice. The words have the same meaning. You should use them in a sentence that has contrast in it.

      1. Nora (Posted on 3-21-2022 at 03:05) Reply

        Thanks a lot. Very clearly explaining

  3. MF (Posted on 11-30-2019 at 06:09) Reply

    I’ve often seen `In spite of + noun + ing’. Example: In spite of Anne living in Spain, she doesn’t speak Spanish.
    Is this correct?

      1. Godfrey (Posted on 4-3-2021 at 04:21) Reply

        So helpful
        Thanks in advance

  4. Rambukkana Dhammawansa -Sri Lanka (Posted on 12-1-2019 at 03:47) Reply

    it was a very helpful expounded. because this grammar method had not cleared. but it was clear now.
    thanks a lot.

  5. Ana (Posted on 1-31-2020 at 07:31) Reply

    How can I continue a sentence like this:
    Adolescence is a complicated period of development. Nevertheless, parent-adolescent relationships are generally considered positive.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 1-31-2020 at 11:02) Reply

      Despite the pressures that teens face, studies show that many receive valuable support from parents, which strengthens the parent-adolescent relationship.

  6. peace (Posted on 4-10-2020 at 06:11) Reply

    if we say, despite/ in spite of is a preposition. why is it now regarded as a subordinating conjunction?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 4-10-2020 at 13:21) Reply

      Despite/In spite of are prepositions because they introduce a noun phrase. A subordinating conjunction must begin a (dependent) clause. In the sentence, “Despite the weather,…” there is only Despite + a noun. There is no clause, and therefore, they cannot be subordinating conjunctions.

  7. Lucas Teles (Posted on 7-19-2020 at 22:49) Reply

    That was so damn helpful to me!! thanks a bunch!!

  8. Raman judge (Posted on 8-6-2020 at 04:04) Reply

    Very well explained you..keep it up..can you send me notification when u will upload something new..

  9. Bwalya Francis (Posted on 8-22-2020 at 13:11) Reply

    Despite Mary being lazy she passed the exam (correct or wrong?)

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 8-22-2020 at 14:37) Reply

      It’s correct, but put a comma after lazy.

    2. Aryan (Posted on 7-22-2022 at 09:04) Reply

      Despite being lazy , Mary passed the exam .

      No need to mention subject in the first clause

  10. Despite knowing the usage, I put a clause after "in spite of" very frequently. Thanks for reminding! (Posted on 9-22-2020 at 02:34) Reply

    Despite knowing the usage, I put a clause after “in spite of” very frequently. Thanks for reminding!

  11. Sriraj deo (Posted on 9-28-2020 at 01:51) Reply

    It really cleared all my doubts. I am thankful for such a great knowledge.

  12. B. Venkat (Posted on 4-7-2021 at 11:02) Reply

    I really understood about these two phrases those are in spite of and
    despite very clearly.

    Thanks a lot

  13. Jayaprakash (Posted on 5-15-2021 at 23:42) Reply

    Despite Mary being lazy she passed the exam

    Despite being lazy Mary passed the exam

    Which on is correct Sir ?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 5-16-2021 at 20:53) Reply

      Hello. Both are grammatical though you should put a comma after “lazy,” in each. I prefer the second one because it is shorter and less redundant.

      1. Mirriam (Posted on 5-20-2021 at 09:12) Reply

        What if i say ; Despite that mary is lazy,she has passed the Exam.
        Am i correct?

        1. mb Post author (Posted on 5-20-2021 at 21:47) Reply

          Hello. If you want to use ‘despite’ + ‘that’, it would be more natural to add ‘the fact that’, e.g. ‘Despite the fact that Mary is lazy, …’. Using ‘Despite that Mary is lazy’ is not natural; if you want to use a clause, use start with a conjunction like ‘although/though Mary is lazy,…’

        2. Lizzy (Posted on 1-17-2022 at 09:03) Reply

          Not she as passed the exam
          She passed the exam

  14. Nam Kh¡nh (Posted on 6-5-2021 at 10:14) Reply

    “Although John cannot swim himself, he is very keen that his children should learn”
    ->In spite of…………………………………………
    Without using “the fact that”, can anyone rewrite the first sentence for me?

    1. MB (Posted on 6-5-2021 at 14:05) Reply

      You can use a gerund to change a verb into a noun. ‘In spite of not being able to swim, John is very keen….’

  15. Hadija Mohamed (Posted on 7-6-2021 at 08:27) Reply

    How can I differentiate despite and inspite of in a sentence

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 7-6-2021 at 09:33) Reply

      Their meanings are the same. Therefore, you cannot differentiate them in terms of meaning. The only difference is in grammar: ‘inspite’ is followed by the preposition ‘of’.

  16. Mariela (Posted on 11-17-2021 at 11:22) Reply

    EXCELLENT explanation. Thank you very much.

  17. Ankit (Posted on 12-3-2021 at 23:12) Reply

    In spite of my repeated warnings, Maya did not listened to me.
    What is wrong with this sentence and it’s correction? please, if anyone can help?

    1. Skylar (Posted on 12-4-2021 at 00:32) Reply

      ‘… Maya did not listen to me’. < the reason: You don't need to write 'listened' in the past tense because the helping verb (auxiliary verb) 'did' is already in the past tense. You only need to use the past tense once (not twice).

    2. Lizzy (Posted on 1-17-2022 at 08:56) Reply

      Nothing is wrong with it

  18. Paschal (Posted on 1-4-2022 at 01:05) Reply

    Summarised notes and clear ones. I love and enjoy the notes.

  19. Oscar Mwakilema (Posted on 5-9-2022 at 12:54) Reply

    Despite being lazy,
    More correct than:
    Despite Marry being lazy

  20. (-ing: Verb) - In spite of /Despite (Posted on 6-12-2022 at 20:13) Reply

    (-ing: Verb)
    – In spite of /Despite

  21. Jason tan (Posted on 6-19-2022 at 20:12) Reply

    that is wrong

  22. Tuyizere onesphore (Posted on 6-24-2022 at 23:04) Reply

    It’s good for me as like student Thank you

  23. Britah (Posted on 7-5-2022 at 05:36) Reply

    Can we say, Despite his sickness, he did an exam. Help me an d I understand more

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 7-5-2022 at 08:26) Reply

      Hello. Yes, that sentence is correct.

  24. Anonymous (Posted on 7-26-2022 at 17:02) Reply

    In spite of the ship having gone down ,the passengers were saved .Is it a correct formation ? Pls explain.why after inspite of ship having gone down came?

    1. Anonymous (Posted on 7-26-2022 at 18:47) Reply

      Your sentence is correct. I’m not sure what you mean by “why after inspite of ship having gone down came?”. What do you mean?

  25. Anonymous (Posted on 7-26-2022 at 22:05) Reply

    After inspite of subject plus verb will not come know…here in that case ship is subject and having gone down came as verb part…that is why I am doubtful

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 7-27-2022 at 12:34) Reply

      You are right. After “Inspite of/Despite”, you will not put a subject and a verb (e.g. “the ship went down”), but only a noun or noun phrase. To make a sentence such as “The ship went down” into a noun phrase, you should change the verb (went) into a gerund, resulting in this: “Despite the ship going down, …..”. (You have used ‘having done down’ in the present perfect, which is also fine.

  26. Mx (Posted on 9-2-2022 at 04:34) Reply

    Can in spite of be followed by the fact that?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 9-2-2022 at 08:19) Reply

      Yes. That is usage #3 (listed above).

  27. Xyx (Posted on 11-28-2022 at 15:42) Reply

    Really helpful and worthy of praise.

  28. Anonymous (Posted on 12-3-2022 at 05:59) Reply

    THX a lot It’s really helpful

  29. Anawar Hamid (Posted on 3-9-2023 at 08:17) Reply

    If Iwanted to say inspite of his crimality he didn,t manage to arrest the thieft am I?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 3-9-2023 at 20:13) Reply

      Please make an effort to retype this with fewer errors.

  30. Moudachirou (Posted on 4-1-2023 at 18:41) Reply

    Despite there were heavy rain and snow, emergency services rushed to search for survivors .
    Is it correct?

    1. MB (Posted on 4-1-2023 at 19:07) Reply

      Hello. No, it is not. Do not use a full sentence after despite. Instead, only use a noun (or nouns). Your sentence should be “Despite the heavy rain and snow, emergency…..”

  31. Unknown (Posted on 6-16-2023 at 07:57) Reply

    Whoa, that’s very helpful. Thank you so much!

  32. Loren (Posted on 10-14-2023 at 09:58) Reply

    Excellent practice because always I confuse both uses.

  33. (Posted on 2-11-2024 at 11:03) Reply

    He kept playing there despite it got dark. How to correct it using gerund.

    1. MB (Posted on 2-11-2024 at 20:51) Reply

      …”despite it getting dark.” Is this your homework? You should try to do it yourself :)

      1. Anonymous (Posted on 2-12-2024 at 03:38) Reply

        He kept playing there despite its getting dark or He kept playing there despite it getting dark. Here it or its is correct use?? Please explain.

        1. mb Post author (Posted on 2-12-2024 at 12:15) Reply

          ‘it’. ‘its’ wouldn’t make sense here because it wouldnt’ be clear what ‘its’ is referring to. The subject of the main clause is ‘He’, which doesn’t match ‘its’.

  34. (Posted on 2-12-2024 at 21:52) Reply

    Thank you very much sir. Can’t this be written without ‘it’ like ,,He kept playing there despite getting dark?? Thanks again.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 2-12-2024 at 22:26) Reply

      Gramatically, it works, but if you don’t add a new subject (‘it’, which refers to the night), then ‘getting dark’ describes the sentence’s subject ‘He’, which means the man got darker, which not the meaning you want to convey.

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