1. In spite of not being intelligent, my son is very studious.
  2. In spite of being not intelligent, my son is very studious.

I'd like to know whether the two sentences above are correct.

  • 1
    It's a matter of perspective. There is some difference between not being intelligent (which could mean average) and being unintelligent (meaning stupid). The difference may be marked or may be slight, it depends on the emphasis.
    – Robusto
    Jan 7, 2017 at 16:09
  • 1
    The first example is idiomatic in AmE, while the second is not. It is a rather harsh comment. You might consider something like this instead: "Although not exceptionally intelligent, my son is very studious." Jan 7, 2017 at 16:16
  • This is a philosophical comment, but just because someone might not be intelligent, I wouldn't necessarily assume them to also not be studious. Jan 10, 2017 at 11:04
  • Is the second sentence grammatical?
    – EngFan
    Jan 12, 2017 at 15:01

1 Answer 1


As @Mark Hubbard commented, the second is not idiomatic. An idiomatic possible alternative could be:

  1. In spite of being unintelligent, my son is very studious.

But as Mark and others also said, "unintelligent" can be seen as harsh and is quite strong. In practice, we have a spectrum of such words, for example: genius, brilliant, smart, clever, average, unintelligent.

Strangely, as I type those I see that it's difficult to go too far below average without moving into words whose meanings are more of an insult than a statement of actual belief. So calling someone "stupid","idiotic", "foolish", "moronic", or even the somewhat taboo "retarded" rarely means that we believe they would actually score low on an IQ test (or whatever measure of intelligence you choose).

Perhaps a more common way to suggest someone is lower on that spectrum is to state it in the negative. So:

In spite of not exactly being an Einstein, my son is very studious.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .