What's the difference between despite, in spite of and although?

The meaning is basically the same, but you need to think about the words which come after them.

I went to work although I didn't feel very well.

I went to work despite / in spite of feeling a bit sick.

I went to work despite / in spite of my headache.

 is a preposition. It is always followed by a noun or verb+ing (the noun form of a verb).

 is a conjunction. It is used in a sentence with two clauses (subject + verb + conjunction + subject + verb).

After despite and in spite of, you can use just one noun (e.g. winning), or a longer noun phrase (e.g. his team winning the match for the third time). There is no difference between despite and in spite of.

Despite winning, Fred still didn't feel happy.

Despite his team winning the match for the third time, Fred still didn't feel happy.

Despite the fact that ... and in spite of the fact that ... are used in the same way as although:

Many people still smoke, despite the fact that it is known to cause cancer.

Many people still smoke, although it is known to cause cancer.

You can use although, despite and in spite of in the middle of the sentence or at the start. If you use them at the beginning, put a comma (,) in the middle.

In spite of his age, he is very fit.

He's very fit in spite of his age.

Practice 1

Choose the best word(s) to complete these sentences. You will need to decide if it's a noun phrase or a clause.

  1. Although   he doesn't eat it very often.
  2. Despite   he doesn't eat it very often.
  3. Although  he didn't go to the dentist.
  4. Despite  he didn't go to the dentist.
  5. Despite the fact that , motor racing is still a popular sport.
  6. Despite , motor racing is still a popular sport.

Practice 2

Choose the best word to complete these sentences.

  1.  the heavy snow, all the trains were on time.
  2. We enjoyed our camping holiday  it rained a lot.
  3.  Yuki and I are in the same class, I don't really know her.
  4.  his age, he swims in the sea every day.
  5.  the injury to his shoulder, he won the tennis match.
  6. Our holiday was wonderful  the food was very expensive.
  7.  he studied every day, he still found it difficult to remember new vocabulary.
  8. I went into work every day last week  feeling really ill.
  9. Our new neighbours are quite nice  their dog is a bit annoying.
  10. He forgot my birthday again  that I reminded him three times.