Is There a Comma Before “Despite”?

Understanding the correct use of commas with the word “despite” can enhance the clarity and flow of your writing. “Despite” is a preposition that introduces a contrast or exception, and its punctuation can sometimes be confusing.

This guide provides clear rules and examples to help you use “despite” correctly in your sentences.

When to Use a Comma with “Despite”

Rule 1: Beginning of a Sentence

Beginning of a Sentence

Correct Usage:

  • Despite the rain, the game continued.
  • Despite her fears, she delivered an excellent speech.

Incorrect Usage:

  • Despite, the rain the game continued.
  • Despite, her fears she delivered an excellent speech.

Explanation: When “despite” begins a sentence, it is followed by a noun or a pronoun and does not require a comma immediately after it. However, a comma should separate the introductory phrase from the main clause.

Rule 2: Middle of a Sentence

Correct Usage:

  • The game continued, despite the rain.
  • She delivered an excellent speech, despite her fears.

Incorrect Usage:

  • The game continued despite, the rain.
  • She delivered an excellent speech despite, her fears.

Explanation: When “despite” is used in the middle of a sentence to introduce a non-essential clause, it is not preceded by a comma, but the clause itself is often followed by a comma if it’s non-essential or adds extra information.

Rule 3: No Comma for Essential Information

No Comma for Essential Information

Correct Usage:

  • The team won despite having three key players injured.
  • She enjoyed the trip despite the bad weather.

Incorrect Usage:

  • The team won, despite having three key players injured.
  • She enjoyed the trip, despite the bad weather.

Explanation: When the information introduced by “despite” is essential to the meaning of the sentence, do not separate it with a comma.

Rule 4: Before “Despite” in Compound Sentences

Correct Usage:

  • It was raining, but despite that, the game continued.
  • She was nervous, yet despite that, she delivered an excellent speech.

Incorrect Usage:

  • It was raining but, despite that, the game continued.
  • She was nervous yet, despite that, she delivered an excellent speech.

Explanation: In compound sentences, use a comma before “but” or “yet” when they precede “despite.” The phrase introduced by “despite” is set off by commas as it adds non-essential information.

Rule 5: “Despite” in the End Position

"Despite" in the End Position

Correct Usage:

  • The game continued despite the rain.
  • She delivered an excellent speech despite her fears.

Incorrect Usage:

  • The game continued, despite the rain.
  • She delivered an excellent speech, despite her fears.

Explanation: When “despite” and its phrase conclude the sentence, they typically do not require a comma before “despite” because the information is directly related to the main clause.

Rule 6: “Despite” with Appositives

Correct Usage:

  • Despite the weather, which was rainy, the game continued.
  • Despite her fears, which were significant, she delivered an excellent speech.

Incorrect Usage:

  • Despite the weather which was rainy, the game continued.
  • Despite her fears which were significant, she delivered an excellent speech.

Explanation: When “despite” introduces a phrase that includes an appositive—a noun or noun phrase that renames or explains another noun—a comma is used to set off the appositive.

Read More: Me Too or Me, Too? (Comma Rules)

Rule 7: “Despite” and Parenthetical Elements

Correct Usage:

  • The game, despite the rain, continued as planned.
  • She, despite her fears, delivered an excellent speech.

Incorrect Usage:

  • The game despite, the rain, continued as planned.
  • She despite, her fears, delivered an excellent speech.

Explanation: When “despite” introduces a parenthetical element, a phrase that can be removed without changing the essential meaning of the sentence, it should be enclosed by commas.

Rule 8: “Despite” Without Direct Contrast

Correct Usage:

  • They arrived on time despite leaving late.
  • He succeeded despite the disadvantages.

Incorrect Usage:

  • They arrived on time, despite leaving late.
  • He succeeded, despite the disadvantages.

Explanation: When “despite” introduces information that is essential to the main clause’s action without setting up a direct contrast, no comma is needed.

Rule 9: “Despite” and Consecutive Clauses

Correct Usage:

  • Despite the rain, they played well, and the team won.
  • She delivered an excellent speech, despite her fears, and received applause.

Incorrect Usage:

  • Despite the rain they played well, and the team won.
  • She delivered an excellent speech despite her fears, and received applause.

Explanation: When “despite” introduces a clause at the beginning of a sentence followed by consecutive independent clauses, use a comma after the introductory phrase and before the conjunction joining the clauses.

Rule 10: Clarifying with “Despite”

Correct Usage:

  • Despite what happened last time, they tried again.
  • Despite the forecast, the weather was clear.

Incorrect Usage:

  • Despite, what happened last time, they tried again.
  • Despite, the forecast, the weather was clear.

Explanation: Use “despite” to introduce clarifying information without a comma immediately after it. The phrase that follows “despite” is essential and should not be separated by a comma.

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