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According to my Cambridge preparation Test:

WRONG: I was lucky enough to fulfill an ambition and visit the Galapagos Islands two years ago. DESPITE no substitute for a visit, this superbly attractive book provides a fascinating commentary and scientific background to the Galapagos experience.

RIGHT: I was lucky enough to fulfill an ambition and visit the Galapagos Islands two years ago. WHILE no substitute for a visit, this superbly attractive book provides a fascinating commentary and scientific background to the Galapagos experience.

I read that DESPITE is a preposition, but I don't understand why it's not suitable for this sentence.

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    You would have to say 'Despite the fact that it is no substitute for a visit'. Apr 5, 2021 at 15:43
  • 4
    You could also say "Despite being no substitute for a visit..."
    – Showsni
    Apr 5, 2021 at 15:56

2 Answers 2

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The problem isn't grammatical. The word "despite" has the wrong connotation here.

de•spite, preposition: despite

without being affected by; in spite of.
"he remains a great leader despite age and infirmity"

(https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/)

The book is not "in spite of" no substitute for a visit.

In this sentence "while" or "although" conveys the meaning.

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  • 6
    The problem isn't the connotation; it would be appropriate to say "Despite being no substitute for a visit".
    – Milo P
    Apr 6, 2021 at 0:45
  • 1
    @MiloP You're right. I will fix the answer (but not tonight). Apr 6, 2021 at 1:55
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Try rewriting the sentences slightly to test the two prepositions:

While this superbly attractive book is no substitute for a visit, it provides...

and

Despite (in spite of) this superbly attractive book is no substitute for a visit, it provides...

It should be obvious immediately that despite doesn't work here. Other possibilities that would work are the subordinating conjunctions, though and although.

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