Skip to Content

Is It Correct to Say “Irrespective”?

It can get a bit complicated when you’re explaining the relationships between different things and ideas in English. So many adjectives describe the connections (or lack thereof) between different objects, but what about the word “irrespective”? Is this correct?

“Irrespective” is a correct word in English that dictionaries list as a synonym for “regardless.” It means that something is independently true or that a situation is not dependent on any other condition. It clarifies that there is no relationship or connection between two or more things. Dictionaries usually list the preposition “of” after “irrespective.”

Here, we’ll look at the meaning and usage of the word “irrespective,” and we’ll check out the rules and popular mistakes for adjectives that use the negative prefix.

What Does “Irrespective” Mean?

The word “irrespective” is an adjective that means “without considering” or “not needing to allow for” (source). In some cases in British English, you can also use “irrespective” as an informal adverb that means “regardless” or “without due consideration” (source).

This word — in both its adjective and informal adverb forms — almost always comes with the preposition “of.” Then, the object of the preposition “of” describes what shouldn’t or need not be considered or allowed for.

For example, if your professor says that your grade is irrespective of your attendance at the lectures, meaning you don’t have to attend lectures to pass the class. Your grade doesn’t depend on your attendance, and attending the lectures doesn’t impact your grade at all.

In the same way, if your brother says that you can call irrespective of the time, it means that you can call him at any time of day. He’s saying that you don’t need to worry about the time and that he is always available to take a call from you.

Or, you can imagine a job application. At the bottom, it might say, “We will consider all applicants, irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, or religious affiliation.” This means that their consideration of you for the job is not dependent on your age, gender, ethnicity, or religion.

As you can see, there are many real-life examples that we can describe with the adjective “irrespective,” even though it may not be a popular word in the English vernacular. Some more common synonyms of “irrespective” include “notwithstanding” and “disregarding.”

Is “Respective” the Opposite of “Irrespective”?

Image by LoggaWiggler via Pixabay

The opposite of “irrespective” is not “respective,” which you may have guessed when you saw that ir- prefix. Instead, “respective” has a different meaning and usage, which can be a bit confusing at first.

The adjective “respective” can also show that there are many things, and each belongs to a different person. Therefore, we always use “respective” right before a plural countable noun because each of those things belongs to a separate person or entity (source).

Take a look at this example to see what that means:

  • The cats were eating from their respective bowls.

Here, we observe that there are many cats and many bowls. In fact, there is one bowl for each cat — every cat has its own bowl. We can understand these ideas of quantity — that is, the equal number of cats and bowls — as well as the concept of ownership and/or belonging from the word “respective.”

Here’s another example, this time with an abstract object:

Each student is entitled to his or her respective opinions.

In this example, we can see that each and every student has his or her own opinions. There are just as many opinions as students, and each student owns or manages them. Again, we can get this from the adjective “respective.”

So, even though that negative prefix ir- at the beginning of “irrespective” might lead you to believe that it is the opposite of “respective,” that is simply not the case. Instead, these two adjectives have their own respective meanings, irrespective of one another.

How Do You Use “Irrespective”?

We usually use the adjective “irrespective” with the preposition “of.” This combination — “irrespective of” — is a collocation. A collocation is a group of words, usually including a preposition, that just go together in English, irrespective of any grammar rules. 

The collocation “irrespective of” has the same meaning as “regardless of.” So, you can use these two phrases interchangeably without any change in grammar, syntax, or meaning.

A few other adjectives have a very similar meaning to “irrespective,” although their usage is a bit different grammatically. These synonyms include “whatever the case,” “ignoring,” “disregarding,” or “no matter what the case.”

As you can see, these words and phrases have a similar meaning to “irrespective of” and “regardless of,” but you have to collocate them very differently to use them correctly. 

When Can You Use “Irrespective”?

You can use “irrespective” to show that two things, ideas, people, or concepts are not related. For instance, if you say that your plans are irrespective of the weather, it means that the weather doesn’t impact your plans. Therefore, the weather and your plans aren’t connected at all.

You can use the adjective “irrespective” with the preposition “of” to build a collocation. Then, after the phrase “irrespective of,” you should place a noun. This noun describes what doesn’t matter or doesn’t make a difference concerning your sentence’s main subject and verb.

However, it’s important to note that “irrespective” isn’t a very popular adjective in contemporary spoken English. Here are a few more common ways to express the idea, “I’ll complete my plans, irrespective of the weather.”

  • My plans don’t depend on the weather.
  • I’ll complete my plans no matter what the weather is.
  • I’m disregarding the weather and going ahead with my plans.
  • I don’t care what the weather is! I’m going to finish my plans. 
  • Whatever the weather, I’ll finish my plans.
  • I’ll complete my plans, weather notwithstanding.

In What Context Can You Use “Irrespective”?

You will usually use the adjective “irrespective” in formal or academic writing. However, it’s not a word many people use in their everyday lives. Instead, it is more prevalent in business emails, scientific journals, or news articles.

Using “Irrespective” in a Full Sentence

When you use the adjective “irrespective” in a full sentence, it often comes at the beginning of a dependent clause that modifies or explains the independent clause. 

This means that “irrespective” doesn’t usually head up the main independent clause. Instead, it adds some more information about the main subject, verb, and/or object in the sentence.

Let’s consider an example to see how we use “irrespective” at the beginning of a modifying dependent clause:

All of the citizens in this country are allowed to vote, irrespective of educational background or socioeconomic status.

Here, you can see that the phrase “irrespective of educational background or socioeconomic status” is not a complete sentence. Instead, it is a dependent clause that modifies or further explains the idea in the independent clause.

Here’s another example, but this time we’ll put “irrespective” in a modifying dependent clause at the beginning of the sentence:

Irrespective of their gender, children like to play with blocks and draw pictures.

In this instance, the modifying dependent clause comes at the beginning of the sentence, and we separate it from the main independent clause with a comma. In fact, whether you put the modifying dependent clause before or after the main independent clause, use a comma to separate them. 

When Not to Use “Irrespective”

There are a couple of old and outdated definitions for “irrespective.” Grammarians refer to these definitions as archaic definitions, which means that people used the word “irrespective” differently in the past. 

However, these definitions are no longer valid in today’s English, so we don’t use the word in these ways anymore.

The archaic definitions of “irrespective” mean lacking respect or acting without regard or consideration for the people or consequences of the action (source). These days, we use the adjective “disrespectful” to express this same definition. So, you shouldn’t use “irrespective” when you actually mean “disrespectful.”

What Can You Use Instead of “Irrespective”?

There are a few different synonyms of the adjective “irrespective.” The most common one is “regardless.” Just like “irrespective,” the adjective “regardless” also takes the preposition “of.” So, you can use “irrespective” and “regardless” interchangeably every time. 

What About “Irregardless”?

Remember, the adjective “irrespective” and “regardless” have the same meaning; they are synonyms. So, it’s not surprising when some people confuse them or combine them. This gave rise to the word “irregardless.”

Many strict grammarians will tell you that “irregardless” is not a word and that you should never use it. However, it has become so popular and ubiquitous in contemporary English usage that the dictionary does recognize “irregardless” as a word but a substandard one.

Image by stevepb via Pixabay

However, the dictionary definition of “irregardless” is exactly the same as “regardless” and “irrespective.” In fact, all three of these adjectives are synonyms of one another. Plus, all three of these adjectives usually come with the preposition “of.”

Negative Prefixes

A negative prefix is a piece of a word that comes at the beginning of a word and usually shows that this word means the opposite of its root word. There are many common negative prefixes in English; we can add such prefixes to adjectives, adverbs, verbs, and nouns.

Let’s take a closer look at how we can use negative prefixes to build adjectives and adverbs that have an opposite meaning of their original root words.

Negative Prefixes With Adjectives

It’s widespread to see words use negative prefixes to build new adjectives. Some of the most popular adjectives we use include ir-, un-, and a-. Each of these prefixes means “not.”

A common example is the adjective “irresponsible.” This adjective has two parts: the negative prefix ir- and the root word “responsible.” When we take these two pieces into account, the meaning of “irresponsible is clear: it is the opposite of “responsible.”

Similarly, the adjective “unfriendly” means “not friendly,” and the adjective “asynchronous” means “not synchronous.” In these examples, the negative prefix makes the adjective the exact opposite of its original root word.

It’s important to remember that every adjective has its own corresponding negative prefix. Therefore, you can’t just mix and match the prefixes however you like. Instead, you need to know which negative prefix is appropriate for the adjective you’re using.

For example, while it is correct to say “unfriendly,” it is not correct to say “irfriendly” or “afriendly.” That is because the adjective “friendly” can only take the negative prefix un-.

When you learn new adjectives, be sure to check out their corresponding negative prefix. This will help you double your vocabulary quickly!

Also, it’s important to remember that the adjective “irrespective” is a bit tricky because it includes the negative prefix ir-, but it does not mean the opposite of “respective.” It is one of the exceptions to this rule. For a similar adverb using this prefix, read “Is It Correct to Say ‘Irregardless’?

Negative Prefixes With Adverbs

Just like with adjectives, you can use negative prefixes with adverbs as well. For the most basic adverbs, you can take the root adjective and add the appropriate negative prefix at the beginning and then the suffix -ly at the end.

For instance, let’s look at the root adjective “synchronous,” which means “at the same time.” Now, let’s add the suffix -ly to make it an adverb: “synchronously.” This adverb describes two or more actions that happen at the same time. This article was written for

But what if we want to describe two or more actions that don’t happen at the same time? We can use the negative prefix “a-” to make a new adverb, “asynchronously.” Here, the adverb “asynchronously” has the exact opposite meaning of the adverb “synchronously.”

Final Thoughts

The word “irrespective” is a correct and proper adjective in the English language. It means “not related to” or “not connected to.” Usually, we use it with the preposition “of” to build a collocation.

However, the adjective “irrespective” is not the opposite of “respective,” even though it has the negative prefix ir-. This is an exception to the basic rule of the negative prefix, which states that a negative prefix forms the opposite of the root word.

We can use negative prefixes with adjectives, adverbs, and nouns. In most cases, the negative prefix changes the meaning of the word from the original root word to its opposite.