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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?

  • 7
    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 May 9 at 14:26
  • 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 May 9 at 21:23
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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.

  • 1
    Re 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 May 9 at 14:30
  • @FumbleFingers Thanks. I've edited my answer. – athlonusm May 9 at 14:37
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    It 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. May 9 at 19:01
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    @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 May 9 at 19:24
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    I 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 says reinstate Monica May 9 at 19:59

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