Contrasting ideas

C1 grammar: Contrasting ideas

Do you know how to give contrasting information using conjunctions such as despite, much as and whereas? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how we can give contrasting information.

Although she now flies down the slopes, it took her years to learn to ski well.
He's really busy. He still offered to help, though.
I passed the exam even though I hardly studied.
While I don't agree, I understand their point of view.
Much as I'd love a holiday this year, I just can't afford it. 

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

MultipleChoice_MjQ3NzE=

Grammar explanation

Although, despite, even if, even though, in spite of, much as, though, whereas and while are all used to link two contrasting ideas or show that one fact makes the other fact surprising. 

They can all be used at the beginning or in the middle of the sentence. 

In spite of the heavy rain, the hikers continued climbing the mountain.
The hikers continued climbing the mountain in spite of the heavy rain.

The main difference between these conjunctions is that they are followed by different structures. 

In spite of and despite

After in spite of and despite, we use a noun phrase or -ing form of a verb.

We arrived on time in spite of missing the train.
Their restaurant succeeded despite the bad reviews.

It's common to use in spite of and despite with the expression the fact that, so that it can be followed by a subject and verb.

We arrived on time, in spite of the fact that we missed the train.
Their restaurant succeeded, despite the fact that they received bad reviews.

Although, though and even though

After although, though and even though, we use a subject and a verb. They mean the same thing, but even though is slightly stronger and more emphatic than although and though.

Although Marjorie lost the election, many more people voted for her than the first time.
I love my Italian conversation class, though I struggled at first.
Even though my team lost, it was great to be in the stadium for the final.

Though can also go at the end of the second phrase. This way of expressing contrasting ideas is most common in spoken English.

I didn't know anyone when I first got to uni. I soon made friends, though.

Even if

Even if means 'whether or not' or 'no matter whether'. It's followed by a subject and a verb.

Even if you are an expert swimmer, you should be careful at this beach.

While and whereas

While is a conjunction that is most commonly used with time, but it can also be used to mean 'despite the fact that' or 'although'. 

While I made some mistakes in my driving exam, I still passed.

In this sense, while comes at the beginning of the sentence.

While and whereas can be used to mean 'but' or 'compared with the fact that', to compare two contradictory ideas. 

While/Whereas Ivan is very sociable, his brother is more reserved.
My trip home was quick and easy, whereas/while my colleagues were delayed for hours.

In this sense, while/whereas can come at the beginning of the sentence or between the two contradictory clauses.

Much as

Much as is a more formal expression. It means 'although', 'despite how much' or 'no matter how much'.

Much as I enjoyed studying abroad, it was good to return home.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

MultipleChoice_MjQ3NzA=

Language level

Average: 4.7 (27 votes)

Submitted by marcelomartel86 on Fri, 15/03/2024 - 15:57

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Hi there, 

I´d appriciate some insights on the difference between "although and while" since according to the explanation, they can be used similarly. 

  1. _____ the delays caused by the bad weather, the trip went quite smoothly

Although is the answer and sounds correct to me. However, why would "While" can´t work here since both of them seem to have the same meaning. I suspect that the difference might be just idiomatic. 

 

Thanks,

 

Marcelo

Hi marcelomartel86,

Neither despite nor although can be used in this sentence as they need to be followed by a clause (subject - verb), not a noun phrase (the delays). The correct answer here is 'in spite of'.

In terms of the difference between although and while more generally, they are interchangeable in terms of meaning. Although is more common in speech; while is a little more formal, I would say; the form whilst is very formal and sounds archaic in many contexts.

While can also mean during and in some contexts it can lead to ambiguity. In these cases it is better to use although to ensure the meaning is clear:

Although it was raining, I went for a run. [clear - it shows a concession/contrast]

While it was raining, I went for a run. [unclear - it could show a concession/contrast or refer to time]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by User_1 on Fri, 08/03/2024 - 15:02

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Hello,

I have a doubt about the verb tense in the structure "Even if".
In general, "even if" + present tense of the verb.
But if I refer to a time period, could I use "even if" + present perfect?

e.g.
I should have to write:

"Even if, over the last 5 years, AI has developed rapidly, it can not totally replace the human work".
or
"Even if over the last 5 years, AI develops rapidly, it can not totally replace the human work".

Thanks for your help.

Hello User_1,

Even if... is not limited to the present tense. You can use it in the same way you can use if... in any conditional structure:

Even if they offer me the job, I won't take it.

Even if they offered me the job, I wouldn't take it.

Even if they had offered me the job, I wouldn't have taken it.

etc.

Your example with the present perfect is perfectly fine.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by AD12.2 on Tue, 13/02/2024 - 14:13

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The negotiations continued________the parties reached an agreement.
A. In order that B. Despite C. So D. Nevertheless
What will be the appropriate answer. My teacher said "despite"

Hello AD12.2,

You're correct that 'despite' is followed by a noun phrase rather than a clause so it is not possible here. I would say that answer C ('so') is the best option here. A would be followed by 'could reach' and D would need a new sentence to begin and would also not fit in terms of meaning.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by kagizman on Thu, 14/12/2023 - 11:31

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In my opinion, in the second question of the second test, there are two true answers: both, even if and whereas.

Hello kagizman,

Yes, you are right! I'm sorry for the confusion!

I've now changed the answers so that only one answer is correct.

Thanks very much for taking the time to tell us about this error.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

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Submitted by oyo on Mon, 25/09/2023 - 14:54

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what is the diffrence between although gettiing low marks in her first year at uni, she ended up graduating with top marks and despite getting low marks in her first year at uni,she ended up graduating with top marks