English is chock-full of words with a more dramatic twin we might reserve for special occasions. There isn’t always a rhyme or reason why these word-twins exist, but they exist and are still usable. Case in point: “irregardless” versus “regardless.”
It is correct to say “irregardless” during an informal conversation, though it is not correct to use it formally in writing. Instead, we use the standard word “regardless.” Both words mean “despite everything.” We don’t normally use “irregardless” in standard English because it sounds redundant.
Today, we will discuss the meaning of “irregardless,” how and when to use it, and when not to use it. We will also discuss some alternatives to using “irregardless” and “regardless.”
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Irregardless”?
While it’s not the popular option, “irregardless” is technically a word, so it is possible to use it grammatically during an informal conversation.
However, if you use grammar correction tools while you type in word processing programs, you might notice that they try to correct “irregardless” to “regardless.” That’s because using “irregardless” in writing is nonstandard.
“Irregardless” and “regardless” are adverbs. As a refresher, adverbs typically describe verbs, other adverbs, adjectives, or sentences to indicate frequency, time, place, degree, or manner (source). They answer questions for us like “How often?” “When?” “Where?” “How intense?” or “How?”
Frequency: How often?
- I am constantly late for class.
- I have school today.
- I am standing right here.
Degree: How intense?
- She swims very quickly.
- She quickly ran away.
Conjunctive adverbs draw connections between two independent clauses to form a relationship or create cause and effect. Our adverbs, “irregardless” and “regardless,” are special adverbs we call “conjunctive adverbs.”
Other conjunctive adverbs include “nevertheless,” “however,” and “therefore.” We will show you how to use them in a sentence so you can see how they work and, hopefully, gain more clarity about how to use “irregardless” and “regardless.”
She wasn’t sure she had enough skills to make the soccer team. Nevertheless, she attended tryouts and made varsity.
He really wanted to read the book. However, he couldn’t find a copy anywhere.
I own a dog. Therefore, I must walk it, feed it, and play with it.
In the case of “regardless” and “irregardless,” this usually means we are joining a negative statement and a positive statement. It’s not always a negative and a positive, but it usually is.
You can start or end a sentence with “irregardless” or “regardless,” or it can be in the middle, usually followed by the word “of.”
What Does “Irregardless” Mean?
“Irregardless” has the same meaning as “regardless,” and both mean “despite everything.”
Another definition for “irregardless” could be “despite the circumstances” (source). If you’re unfamiliar, “despite” means “without being affected.” So, basically, “irregardless” means that whatever you’re dealing with, the subject or event is unchanged by the circumstances.
The Prefix Ir-
Traditionally, when you add the prefix ir- to the beginning of a word, it negates it.
There’s a lot of heated debate over whether “irregardless” should even be a word (source). Technically, “irregardless” should mean the opposite of “regardless,” but that’s not the case.
What Is a Prefix?
A prefix is usually a letter or a couple of letters we add to the beginning of a word, and it transforms the meaning of that word. Prefixes can negate, show opposites, indicate time, manner, or place.
Here are some common prefixes and their effects on words:
|Prefix||Base Word||Prefix + Base Word|
In most other circumstances, adding ir- to the beginning of a word gives it its opposite meaning. To show you how the prefix ir- functions to negate the regular meaning of a word, here are a couple of examples:
Rational and Irrational
- You are rational when you use logic and reason to make decisions.
- You are irrational when you make foolish decisions, usually based on emotion.
Relevant and Irrelevant
- When we say something is relevant, we say that it matters.
- If something is irrelevant, it doesn’t matter.
In both instances, with “rational” and “relevant,” adding the prefix ir- to the beginning flips the meaning of the words upside down.
Ir- in “Irregardless”
However, “irregardless” is not the opposite of “regardless.” It doesn’t follow the same rules as “rational and irrational” and “relevant and irrelevant.” That’s why we don’t accept it in standard language. So then, why does the word exist at all?
Well, some words in English simply exist outside the law. There’s no particular need for their existence, and they defy the normal rules of grammar. They exist because they’ve been around for a long time or the general public continues to use them often in conversational English. This is why words like “irregardless” stick around.
How Do You Use “Irregardless”?
We place the adverb “irregardless” in a sentence to modify a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or a sentence to show and emphasize its degree. It’s not always socially acceptable to use “irregardless,” but, regardless, we will show you how it can function in a sentence.
We use “irregardless” almost exclusively in spoken conversation and not in written form. More specifically, we use it selectively when trying to make a point about something.
“Irregardless” is redundant and unnecessary in English. If someone is using it, they’ve usually gone out of their way to put it in a sentence as a means to convey their passion or frustration about something.
Otherwise, they would just use “regardless.” Sometimes, people get overwhelmed by their feelings, and they really want you to know their stance on the subject matter.
You don’t have to concern yourself overly about where you place “irregardless” in your sentence. It can start or end a sentence or go in the middle. The reason for this is that it’s a conjunctive adverb. It brings two statements or independent clauses together to form a relationship.
We’ve been friends a long time, and I know you didn’t mean to tattle on me. Irregardless, you broke my trust, and I’m not sure if I can forgive you right now.
I gave her a long list of reasons not to buy it, but she purchased it irregardless.
Remember that we don’t use “irregardless” for formal writing. The example sentences above, and throughout this lesson, might function well in conversation, but they are only in written form here for teaching purposes since you and I cannot speak to each other.
Using “Irregardless” in a Full Sentence
We use “irregardless” in a sentence to say that a process will proceed, despite any roadblocks in its path.
The definition of “irregardless” is tough to conceptualize, so let’s give it some context and use example sentences to demonstrate its meaning in action.
Example: You can achieve any level of success you want, irregardless of your current circumstances.
Translation: Despite where you currently are financially, personally, or professionally, you can become as successful as you want.
Example: There are some things in life that must be done, irregardless of how we feel about doing them.
Translation: Whether we like it or not, we have responsibilities in life that we must fulfill, despite our feelings about fulfilling them.
Since “irregardless” and “regardless” have the same definition, our example sentences mean the same thing if we replace “irregardless” with “regardless.” Our sentences also sound a bit better when we use “regardless.” They make more sense because “regardless” is a calmer, non-redundant word.
You can achieve any level of success you want, regardless of your current circumstances.
There are some things in life that must be done, regardless of how we feel about doing them.
When Can You Use “Irregardless”?
Where socially acceptable, we would use “irregardless” during a conversation to place major emphasis on something.
If “irregardless” is a redundant word that doesn’t have its own definition or meaning in English, then why do people continue to use it? Great question!
“Irregardless” exists so that people can emphasize what they’re saying (source). Sometimes, “regardless” isn’t a strong enough word, so people use “irregardless” to create a sense of importance or urgency.
- You won’t make the team, regardless of how hard you try.
- You won’t make the team, irregardless of how hard you try!
Although these two are the same sentences, making minor adjustments in English, like using “irregardless” and adding an exclamation point, can transform your tone into something much more dramatic.
For more ways to add emphasis to your sentences, read “‘Quality,’ ‘Good Quality,’ and ‘High Quality’: What’s the Difference?”
In What Context Can You Use “Irregardless”?
You can use “irregardless” in the context of an argument, debate, or to end a conversation.
The conversations that encourage the use of “irregardless” are typically negative, angry, or passionate. That’s not to say you can’t use it in a positive conversation. However, people most often use it in heated discussions.
Irregardless of your opinion, I’m going to do it my way.
We can sit here and argue all night, but I won’t go to college, irregardless of your aspirations for me.
Irregardless of your business goals, it’s not right to endanger the habitat of our ocean’s many creatures.
When Not to Use “Irregardless”
We don’t use “irregardless” in written text, legal contracts, or during formal conversations.
If you try typing “irregardless” into your word processing program while writing an essay or a letter, it will most likely underline the word for you and suggest changing it to “regardless.”
Likewise, if you read legal contracts or talk to someone well-versed in formal English, you won’t see or hear “irregardless.” The standard term in all instances is “regardless.”
What Can You Use Instead of “Irregardless”?
Instead of using “irregardless,” we can use “regardless.” It’s more acceptable and more common in English.
You can also use “despite,” “in spite of,” or “no matter” to convey a similar message.
- Regardless of your financial situation, you should have access to education.
- Despite your financial situation, you should have access to good education.
- In spite of your financial situation, you should have access to good education.
- No matter your financial situation, you should have access to good education.
And, just to be clear, you don’t have to structure your sentences exactly like the ones above. You can flip them around, and they will still make sense.
- You should have access to education, regardless of your financial situation.
- You should have access to good education, despite your financial situation.
- You should have access to good education, in spite of your financial situation.
- You should have access to good education, no matter your financial situation.
If you haven’t already, you should familiarize yourself with the common phrase “no matter.” For more on common phrases in English, read “As of Now: Meaning and Proper Usage.”
Nonstandard vs. Standard English
Nonstandard English is the informal use of the English language, and we use nonstandard English in everyday conversations. In contrast, standard English is the formal use of English.
We use standard English in papers, legal contracts, and anywhere that warrants more complex words or formal language.
Technically speaking, we would consider “regardless” standard English and “irregardless” as nonstandard (source). However, you’ll most often see and hear “regardless” over “irregardless” in both standard and nonstandard settings. We will give you a few examples of nonstandard versus standard English below.
- Hello, how are you doing today?
- Hey, what’s up?
Nonstandard greetings are the most common greetings during a conversation. Standard greetings are more common in emails, letters, and conversations if you greet a superior or someone important.
- You are cordially invited to attend a celebration of my birthday this upcoming Saturday.
- Hey, do you want to come to my birthday party this Saturday?
Invitations are another area where the difference between standard and nonstandard English is glaringly obvious. Written invitations, like those for a wedding, anniversary, or birthday celebration, are often in standard English.
Where on the other hand, if someone invites you to a party in person, they’re likely to be very informal about it. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
“Irregardless,” while nonstandard, isn’t actually used all that often. It’s categorized as nonstandard because it starts with ir- and it’s superfluous, not because we use it all the time. It has been around for so long that it’s stayed part of the English language, but people usually still say “regardless.”
The general consensus on “irregardless” is that it is an unnecessary word. You can use it if you want to, but “regardless” will do just fine in both conversation and written text.
Some people feel very strongly that we should exclude “irregardless” from the dictionary and throw it out of conversations. For the time being, though, it will stay, and we can technically use it grammatically.
It’s up to you whether you want to include “irregardless” in your vocabulary or not. Remember, there are other words and phrases we can use to shake things up, like “regardless,” “despite,” “in spite of,” and “no matter.”