What’s the difference in meaning between ‘even though’ and ‘even if’? How are they used in sentences? Are they the same as ‘in spite of’ and ‘despite’? Can socks and sandals ever be worn together? You’ll find the answers to these age-old questions and more in this week’s post. So grab yourself a cup of tea, perhaps a biscuit if you’re feeling extravagant, and settle down for story-time with SchwaEnglish. All will be revealed…
Even Though and Even If
Continuing from last week’s award winning (my mum said it was really good) post, Even: What it Means and How to use it, I’d like to begin with the difference between these two tricky little connectors: ‘even though’ and ‘even if’. Just in case they’re not familiar to you already, let’s begin with the basics.
Both these connectors (and, in fact, all the connectors we’re going to look at today) express some kind of contradiction; they reconcile two opposing ideas. Try to keep that idea at the forefront of your mind as I demonstrate how we can think of these words as the opposite of ‘because’.
‘Because’ expresses a logical consequence:
Logical, right? The fact that wearing socks and sandals together is a crime against fashion means I never do it. There’s no contradiction here. Far from it; it’s a completely logical progression of ideas. That’s why I used ‘becuase’ to connect them.
My dad, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to mind. He’s fully aware of this fashion faux pas but still insists on wearing them together every bloody time we go on a family holiday. So, in my dad’s case we have a ‘contradiction’. We have two conflicting ideas (‘knowing it’s a crime against fashion’ and ‘wearing them anyway’) that we need to reconcile, much as I, as an embarrassed son, have slowly come to reconcile myself to the fact he’s never going to change…
Read the two examples again and perhaps you’ll agree that thinking of ‘even though’ as the opposite of ‘because’ can be pretty useful in understanding the concept. Speaking of useful things, shall we translate that last example into Spanish? Yeah, let’s do it.
There are two really important aspects to this translation. The first is the word ‘aunque’, which we have used in place of ‘even though’, and the second is the phrase that follows it; ‘sabe que es….’
So why is ‘sabe que es…’ so important? It’s just a normal phrase, isn’t it?
Are you ready for some Spanish grammar? Well, ready or not, I’m going to explain. ‘Sabe que es…’ is indicative (indicativo). There’s nothing fancy or subjunctive going on here and that’s really important because it gives us our first rule of the day:
Easy. Boom. It doesn’t matter if the phrase is past, present or future. If you want to express the idea of ‘even though’, ‘aunque + indicativo’ will always do the job.
And this is where ‘even if’ comes in. ‘Even if’ adds an element of doubt to the phrase. And how do you Spanish speakers like to add the idea of doubt?
With the subjunctive mood, of course!
Let’s have a look an example with ‘even if’ and take a look at how a Spanish speaker might use ‘aunque + subjuntivo’ to express this same idea:
Is it 30 degrees outside now? It might be. It might not. It might have been in the past, but it equally might not have been. Who knows if it will be in the future? I think you get the idea. Doubts. Doubts everywhere! We’re not referring to one concrete occasion on which it was, is, or will be 30 degrees.
If we were talking about one specific instance of thirty degree heat, we would use ‘even though’ and you guys would use ‘aunque + indicativo’. But we’re not. And that’s exactly why we used ‘even if’ in the example and why we’re going to use ‘aunque + subjuntivo’ in our translation:
Clear? I hope so, but just to make sure let’s contrast two phrases, one using ‘even if’ and the other ‘even though’ .
Scenario 1 – Even Though: It’s 30 degrees outside right now. That’s a fact. Meanwhile, on a Spanish beach near you, my dad is committing a crime against fashion:
Scenario 2 – Even If: The temperature now is irrelevant and I’m expressing the idea that however high it is, and whenever it may happen, my dad still insists on breaking one of the strictest and most widely known fashion laws there is:
Let’s tie it all up in one handy graphic before moving on to ‘despite’ and ‘in spite of’:
Comparing Even Though and Although with Despite and In Spite Of
First of all, I’d like to group these words/phrases into synonymous pairs: Let’s be clear from the start that there’s no difference at all between ‘even though’ and ‘although’:
If you can use one, you could equally use the other. The same applies to ‘despite’ and ‘in spite of’:
It’s also true that all four of these words/phrases convey the same meaning; contradiction or conflict between two ideas. The only difference between our two pairs is how they are used within phrases. With this is mind, let’s have a look at how we form phrases with ‘although/even though’:
Okay, great, we have a rule. But what’s a ‘subject verb clause’?
Well, it basically means that, after ‘although/even though’, we have to put the name of a person or thing and then a verb. Of course, we can add more than that, but that’s the bare minimum. Let’s have a look at another example. This one’s a direct quote from my dad:
‘My son’ is the subject and it’s followed by ‘is dying’, which are the verbs in the clause. If you like, you can think of it as a ‘new phrase’ which makes sense without the first clause. ‘My son is dying of embarrassment’ is fine as a sentence even without ‘I’m not taking off my socks even though’, right? In this way, we can see that it’s a new clause. One more example and we’ll move on:
Clear? Great! Now let’s think about how to make sentences with ‘despite’ and ‘in spite of’. We have three options.
Option 1: Nouns/noun phrases
Example: In spite of all the criticism, he still just doesn’t get it. (all the criticism = noun phrase)
Example: He flatly refused to remove the offending footwear despite the risk of being disowned by his wife and children. (the risk of being disowned = noun phrase)
Option 2: Gerunds (verbal nouns that end with ‘ing’)
Example: Despite trying for years, I just can’t seem to get the message through to him. (trying = gerund)
Example: Even the most basic fashion sense seems to elude him in spite of having spent 59 years on this earth. (having = gerund)
Option 3: The fact (that)
We can treat ‘despite/in spite of the fact (that)’ in exactly the same way as ‘although/even though’.
That, of course, means that we have to follow the phrase with… a ‘subject verb clause’. You already knew that, didn’t you? You didn’t need me to remind you.
Example: Despite the fact that it may have been funny at first, the socks and sandals thing is getting really old now. (it may have been = subject verb clause)
Example: I chose to persist with the theme in spite of the fact it had long since ceased to be even mildly amusing. (it had long since ceased to be = subject verb clause)
And that, as they say, is that! Yes, that’s all we have time for in this week’s post. I hope you learnt something about the subtleties of ‘even if’ compared to ‘even though’, how they differ from ‘despite’ and ‘in spite of’, and why socks and sandals are never okay…
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