Is ‘despite that’ right?

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  1. They can be instructed in swimming despite they are very young.

  2. They can be instructed in swimming despite that they are very young.

Is sentence 1 or 2 right? Why?

Y. zeng

Posted 2019-05-09T13:57:12.877

Reputation: 837

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From an ELU comment: *For what it's worth, despite that can be used as a conjunction.* But for my money that usage (as reflected in your second example) is antiquated / archaic. Either "expand" the construction to *...despite the fact that they are very young*, or recast as *despite being very young*.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2019-05-09T14:26:55.673

Usage differs here according to dialect, so it is difficult to give uncontroversial advice. The easiest solution is to use the conjunction although instead of the preposition despite: They can be instructed in swimming although they are very young. – TonyK – 2019-05-09T21:23:35.017

Answers

19

Neither is correct. Despite is a preposition and should take either a noun or a gerund.

The usual expression using a noun is despite the fact (that). The that is optional and makes the sentence sound slightly more formal.

They can be instructed in swimming despite the fact (that) they are very young.

If you want to use a gerund, you should rewrite your sentence as follows:

They can be instructed in swimming despite (them) being very young.

They can be instructed in swimming despite (their) being very young.

Their and them are also optional in this case, since the subject of the gerund phrase is the same as that of the main clause. Their is more "proper" and formal.


As others have noted, despite that is still possible, but it's considered archaic or dialectal. The safest solution is either to use one of the two constructions I described above or rewrite that part using although:

They can be instructed in swimming although they are very young.

Because although is a conjunction, it can be used with a clause.

athlonusm

Posted 2019-05-09T13:57:12.877

Reputation: 1 864

1Re the "gerund" versions (actually, I think *them being* is a straightforward "continuous [verb] participle* and only *their being* is a truly "noun-like" gerund), it might be worth noting that it's *entirely optional* whether to include either of the two possibilities *them* or *their*. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2019-05-09T14:30:43.107

@FumbleFingers Thanks. I've edited my answer. – athlonusm – 2019-05-09T14:37:03.683

Just don't ask me whether *being* is a gerund or not without a preceding subject or possessive determiner! (I understand the difference if either of *them / their* is present, but I have absolutely no idea how to classify the syntax if neither are present! :) – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2019-05-09T14:43:00.810

...belay that! In *Being young is not a disadvantage*, it's obvious that the first word must be a *noun* (because it's the subject of the verb *to be*). The definition of a "gerund" is essentially a verb form functioning as a noun, and clearly that's how it's being used in my examples (but not in this actual sentence, obviously! :). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2019-05-09T14:56:31.447

To me, "despite the fact they are[...]" sounds wrong to me, not informal. Is that perhaps region dependent? (I'm Canadian) – Spitemaster – 2019-05-09T16:18:13.747

@Spitemaster - Agreed, it sounds wrong to me too without "that." I probably wouldn't notice in fast speech though. (Midwest US) – Justin – 2019-05-09T17:28:11.697

that they are young can be the object required here. It sounds antiquated but not obsolete. – chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- – 2019-05-09T17:41:13.453

@Spitemaster This is despite the fact they perform better in these subjects than their male counterparts. / We received a full refund, despite the fact we were due to fly that afternoon. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/despite (scroll down to the examples)

– athlonusm – 2019-05-09T17:53:59.820

2It might be worth mentioning that "that" can be used as a pronoun: "They are very young. Despite that, they can be instructed in swimming." Here "that" is a pronoun referring to the concept "they are very young". -- The frequency of usage of "despite that" in this fashion is possibly part of the reason why Y. zeng is inclined to use "despite that" in their examples. – R.M. – 2019-05-09T19:01:23.573

1@athlonusm Be that as it may, I still think it sounds wrong. Actually, thinking about it more, a phrase like Despite that they are young, they can be instructed in swimming. sounds better to me (if informal) than the sentence you provided, though I still agree that OP's sentence 2 is wrong. – Spitemaster – 2019-05-09T19:24:11.470

3I am a native speaker, and (2) is fine in my dialect. I guess your dialect is different from mine. Sentence (1) is certainly wrong. – Dawood ibn Kareem – 2019-05-09T19:59:27.813

@R.M. Yes, I did so. – Y. zeng – 2019-05-10T00:12:34.623

I too think #2 is acceptable (if stilted). It's not hard to picture say, Maggie Smith using that turn of phrase (perhaps change 'swimming' to 'spellcasting'). ;-)

– mcalex – 2019-05-10T06:39:25.007

@FumbleFingers For those nineteenth century linguists that believe in gerunds in English, a gerund is an -ing form of a verb that occurs in Subject, Object or Object of a preposition environments. That's as far as its nouniness goes (it occupies a position that we more freuently associate with nouns). Thus if there is a such a thing as a bona fide gerund in English, the despite being very young strings in the OP's answer are definitely and indisputably gerunds. (But notice that's only if gerunds exist) – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2019-05-10T13:17:27.143

@Araucaria: *It is said that laughing is infectious.* I don't really care whether we call that highlighted noun usage a "gerund" or something else, but syntactically, *laughing* is equivalent to the more commonly used noun *laughter* there. And for some reason I'm not clear about, it doesn't seem natural to replace it with the infinitive in that exact context (*To laugh is infectious* sounds a bit "off" to me). But I'm perfectly happy with both Seeing is believing and To see is to believe.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2019-05-10T13:54:31.087