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Conceding a point can be expressed by means of

– an adverb (however, nevertheless, etc);

– a preposition + the point in noun form (despite this, in spite of this, despite the fact that, etc);

– a conjunction + the point in the form of a clause (although this is the case, while this is the case, etc).

In Cambridge's First Certificate Trainer, Six Practice Tests, I found the following (p. 87, key p. 208) in a multiple choice exercise about a text entitled 'Fingernails growing faster':

[…] the human fingernail now grows about 3.5 mm a month, compared with just 3 mm seven decades ago. Toenail growth, [gap: A although; B despite; C however; D nevertheless] only about 2 mm per month, was also up on the figure obtained in a similar survey done 70 years ago.

And the answer the key gives is 'A although'. So here, 'although' is used as a kind of preposition! How common is that?

  • Well, it is certainly idiomatic in that and related senses. – WS2 Feb 8 '16 at 8:41
  • Not even the most ardent preposition-lumper would call this an example. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 8 '16 at 12:55
  • Although is a subordinating conjunction introducing a concession clause there. – TRomano Feb 8 '16 at 14:15
  • With my glasses needing a new prescription, and following as it does the word ardent, that word did not enter my brain as lumper at first. – TRomano Feb 8 '16 at 14:17
  • @EdwinAshworth: how do you distinguish between a word that can only be a preposition, as is 'without' in 'without waiting for an answer', and 'before' in 'before leaving' / 'before he left', where it can be either? or both?! – user58319 Feb 9 '16 at 21:37
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I suppose that it is a case of leaving out part of a sentence or clause, as in certain relative clauses:

Albert Einstein, who is the most famous physicist of the XXth century, was born in Ulm.

can be reduced to

Albert Einstein, the most famous physicist of the XXth century, was born in Ulm.

leaving out 'who was'. Similarly,

Toenail growth, although it was only about 2mm per month, was also up on the figure obtained in a similar survey done 70 years ago.

can be reduced to

Toenail growth, although only about 2 mm per month, was also up on the figure obtained in a similar survey done 70 years ago.

leaving out 'it was'.

The absence of a subject and a verb make 'although' seem to be a preposition here but it is definitely not. Another case of sentence simplification which complicates the task of whoever wants to understand and learn the language… !

  • Right, though one might also say that the long form could have been "Toenail growth, although being only about 2mm per month, ...". Both have different grammatical structure, but mean the same thing here. – user21820 Feb 8 '16 at 9:57
  • +1 for the last paragraph. (But note that whiz-deletion is not identical to this example.) – Edwin Ashworth Feb 10 '16 at 10:46
  • @ user21820 It's probably correct to consider this as a two-stage deletion: "Toenail growth, although {[it is] being} only about 2mm per month, ...". – Edwin Ashworth Feb 10 '16 at 11:05
  • @EdwinAshworth: and why not? Is it because the deleted verb would be something like 'amounted to' rather than just 'was'? (I had never heard of 'whiz-deletion', thanks) – user58319 Feb 11 '16 at 17:44
  • Deletions are best (and usually) restricted to reasonably readily recoverable elements; with verbs, repeats or be. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 11 '16 at 17:49

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