English is a beautiful language, filled with many quirks and eccentricities. Understanding the different rules and complexities increases the ability of the language and allows for more descriptive control. For instance, Which is correct — “in spite” or “inspite”?
The correct expression is in spite, as inspite is not a real word. In spite of is a prepositional phrase composed of three individual words collectively meaning irrespective of. It’s easy to confuse the nonword inspite with despite, but in spite of and despite are ultimately used by the layman interchangeably in most situations.
In this article, we will investigate the expression “in spite of” and the different rules attached to it. We will also compare it to the word “despite” and see when it is most appropriate to use which one.
“In Spite” or “Inspite”
Colloquial expressions and nonwords emerge for various reasons, often because we hear things the wrong way. When we hear the phrase “in spite of,” we might hear “in” and “spite” as one word, “in-spite.”
However, “in-spite” is not an actual word, and this confusion may also stem from the word “despite,” but we’ll delve into that later.
The word “spite” is defined as an ill will or hatred toward another, accompanied by the desire to irritate, annoy, or thwart (source). You could use the expression “out of spite,” and that would fit this definition.
The complete expression “in spite of,” on the other hand, is defined as notwithstanding or “irrespective of.” Let’s look at an example:
- Correct: In spite of the large lunch, he was hungry an hour later.
- Incorrect: Inspite of the large lunch, he was hungry an hour later.
“In spite of” is a prepositional phrase composed of these three individual words, which only create the complete expression when combined. A preposition modifies a noun or pronoun and expresses a relationship between another part of the clause.
- In spite of my sunglasses, the sunlight hurt my eyes.
Or in between the two clauses:
- The sunlight hurt my eyes in spite of my sunglasses.
In the examples, the preposition “in spite of” contrasts the use of protective eyewear with the pain inflicted on the eyes. In such a sentence, you must always include a contrasting clause.
As mentioned above, a similar preposition would be the word “despite,” These two are often confused because they fulfill a very similar role in speech.
Difference Between “In Spite of” and “Despite”
If you look up the word “despite” in the dictionary, you’ll find the definition “in spite of,” and you can use these prepositions interchangeably in most situations (source). As prepositions, they adhere to the rules of these parts of grammar and a few of their own.
Rules of Prepositions
We must follow a preposition by either a noun, pronoun, or gerund (source). A gerund is simply a verb ending in -ing, acting as a noun.
The noun, or noun adjacent, is the part of the sentence that the preposition will modify. Let us look at two different examples that demonstrate these phrases.
- He did not know any French, despite many years of lessons at school.
- In spite of the many years of lessons at school, he did not know any French.
Or with a gerund:
- Despite going to bed early, she was tired the next morning.
- She was tired the next morning in spite of going to bed early.
All these sentences are correct, and you can switch out their prepositions with the alternative at any point. The preposition’s location in the sentence in either clause is not critical as long as you follow the prepositions’ rules and use contrasting clauses.
“Despite,” “In Spite of,” and “That” Clauses
A common rule for both “despite” and “in spite of” is that they often do not go directly before a “that” clause (source). The Cambridge Dictionary explains that a “that” clause uses “that” as a conjunction to link a verb, adjective, or noun with the following clause.
To follow either of these prepositions with a “that” clause, you should use the phrase “the fact.” Using “the fact” allows you to follow the preposition with a subject and a verb.
- Despite that the sun was shining, it was too chilly to leave the house.
- It was too chilly to leave the house in spite of that the sun was shining.
- Despite the fact that the sun was shining, it was too chilly to leave the house.
- It was too chilly to leave the house in spite of the fact that the sun was shining.
The wordiness of these sentences makes it worth mentioning here that, in most scenarios, the better expression to use for “in spite of the fact” would be “although” or “even though.” “Although” and “even though” are similar in meaning and function while using fewer words.
Such economic use of words often makes for more precise sentences. We will talk more about this later.
“That” as A Pronoun
You can use “that” after either preposition so long as “that” serves as a relative pronoun. “That,” as a pronoun, refers to the situation previously stated — the antecedent. In this case, it is not necessary to include the phrase “the fact.”
- It was too chilly to leave the house. Despite that, the sun was shining.
- It was too chilly to leave the house. In spite of that, the sun was shining.
“In Spite” and “Despite of” Error
Another common mistake with these two prepositions is combining them by either appending parts to “despite” or dropping them from “in spite of.” Remember, just as you cannot split up the latter for proper use, you also cannot add the word “of” after despite in Modern English.
- Despite of the many rules, grammar can be fun to learn.
- In spite the many rules, grammar can be fun to learn.
- Despite the many rules, grammar can be fun to learn.
- In spite of the many rules, grammar can be fun to learn.
For additional clarity on the use of “despite,” make sure you check out our article on using “despite of.”
If you’re feeling confident with what you’ve learned here, you may also want to examine the difference between other similar expressions, like “me either” and “me neither.”
Which is the Best Choice?
Now that we’ve established the essential correctness of “in spite of” and “despite,” let’s examine which option to choose in a sentence. Since their definition is essentially the same, is there anything that makes one of them stand out?
Over the last two hundred years, “in spite of” has been the more popular choice on average. However, since around the 1960s, “despite” has seen a significant increase in use (source).
In today’s English, the preposition most encountered is “despite,” and there is a good reason for it.
With the speed of communication in the modern world, there is a definite focus on brevity and concise language. “Despite” satisfies this need for conciseness and is simply easier to read and write than “in spite of.”
It is also used more for formal writing for a similar reason, and many spell checkers will even suggest the use of “despite” over the alternative.
Yet there are moments when the emphasis and syllable count of “in spite of” works better in a sentence. For example, switching up your word usage can aid in your delivery.
Delivery is an important part of forming sentences, which you can use to dramatic effect, depending on your intended audience.
Still, in everyday speech and writing, you can use either one correctly since their meaning is practically identical
“Although” and “Even Though”
The expressions “although” and “even though” are important for the same reason as “despite.” They are far more economical in word usage compared to wordy phrases like “despite the fact of” or “inspire of the fact,” for example.
Instead of being prepositions, they are subordinating conjunctions, which means they introduce a secondary, subordinate clause and require a main clause to complete it.
Due to their similar meanings, “although” and “even though” are often confused with the previously mentioned prepositions. However, instead of using a noun form afterward, they require a subject and a verb (source). Let us look at some examples:
- Although the sun was shining, it was too chilly to leave the house.
- It was too chilly to leave the house even though the sun was shining.
“In spite of” is the correct phrase, although many writers favor the word “despite” for its brevity. These are contrasting prepositions indicating that something happened regardless of complicating or contradicting circumstances.