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Ways to express contrasts

We express contrast when we emphasize the fact that the second point in a sentence contradicts the first. Today we are going to revise all the connectors that can be used in this respect, basically although/though, even though/even if, while, whilst and whereas.

 

  1. Although and though

We use although or though (in a less formal way) to express an unexpected contrast in the sentence between what happened in the main clause and what happened in the adverbial clause. Let’s see a few examples:

  • Although/Though: William could not reach his objectives, he assisted his colleagues in reaching theirs.

 

Similarly, we can use:

  • Despite the fact that
  • In spite of the fact that
  • Despite / In spite of + -ing
  • Despite / In spite of his/her noun

Despite the fact that William could not reach…

In spite of William not being able to reach…

In spite of his inability to reach…

 

  • Though can be placed at the end of the clause, whereas although is only used at the beginning: I quite like soft drinks, I’m not actually keen on Coke, though.

 

  • We can give special emphasis to an adjective by placing it before though in the following structure: adjective + though + noun/pronoun + verb (normally a linking verb like appear, be, become, feel, look, seem, sound, prove..). As (but not although) can be used instead of though. Compare these two sentences:
    • Interesting though (or as) the film seemed, we turned the TV off.
    • Although / though the film seemed interesting, we turned the TV off.

 

2. Even though and even if

 

 

We can use even though (but never “even although”) to express the same as “despite the fact that” and even if to express “whether or not”. Compare the following examples:

  • Even though Jon is not keen on classical music, I think he should still come with us to the opera = Despite the fact that he is not keen on classical music.  i.e. The speaker knows that Jon is not keen on classical music
  • Even if Jon is not keen on classical music, I think he should still come with us to the opera = Whether or not he is keen on classical music. i.e. the speaker doesn’t know definitely whether Jon is keen on classical music or not

 


Even though
and even if are quite similar, only the latter is less formal than the former.

 

 

3. While, whilst and whereas

 

 

In more formal contexts we can use while or whilst instead of “although” if we want to introduce something that confirms what is said in the main clause or something that may seem to conflict with it. In such cases, the while / whilst clause comes before or within the main clause, but not after it:

  • While / Whilst there were no signs of bad weather, we were all very surprised when it started to rain (not We were all very surprised when it started to rain, while…)
  • The electric version of the stove, while / whilst more expensive, is clearly better value for money.

 

Generally speaking, whilst is a rather literary word therefore many people will prefer not to use it.

 

We can use while or whereas (or to a lesser extent whilst) to say that something contrasts with something else in the main clause. The while / whereas clause can be placed before or after the main clause:

  • Michael gets lots of work in the office, while / whereas Jane gets very little.
  • While / whereas I always felt I would be able to pass the driving test, I never thought I would pass it after the first attempt.

 

We don’t employ whereas if what is stated in the subordinate clause makes what is stated in the main clause unexpected or surprising:

  • Although / while Sophie’s parents are from France, she doesn’t speak any French at all (not Whereas…)

 

We can use –ing and past participle (-ed) clauses after although, though, while and whilst, and also clauses with the subject and verb left out

  • While surprised, he could manage to conceal his feelings.
  • Although unattended, nobody stole my suitcase.

 

Are you ready to put this into practice? Try with the following exercises:

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For more English tips, take a look to the posts below 😉

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