Definition of “Albeit” and How It Is Different from “Although” (if it is)

Some words are used interchangeably without difficulty. A student can study for a test or—just as acceptably—prepare for a test. A symbol might signify an organization; alternatively it might represent the organization. Sophisticated wordsmiths love to use as many synonyms as possible to avoid repetitiveness. Such is the case with the words “albeit” and “although.” At the same time, there is a subtle difference between the two that should be observed. One is a shade of a degree off the other.

Consider the following sentence pulled from an obituary: “The deceased served two successful albeit stormy terms as city council president.” “Although” can certainly be inserted in place of “albeit” and the sentence will retain its meaning. Yet, if a sentence reads “Her term in office was successful albeit stormy,” then “albeit fits more perfectly. Here is why: both terms are used to mitigate or offset the original assertion, conceding that while success was attained, there was also much contention. However, to say “Her term in office was successful although stormy” lacks the “be” in “albeit.”

“Albeit” can be understood to mean “although it be.” In the past tense it would mean “although it was.” So, if a sentence reads “Her term in office was…”, “albeit” fits better because it corresponds to the verb precisely. In the prior example, the verb was the active “served,” making although an appropriate substitute. Thus, the rule of thumb is that “albeit” is always best when using the passive verb “to be.”

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