Commonly confused words: dependant and dependent (and a note on ‘is dependent on’)

A elephant calf facing its mother, touching trunks

The dependent calf relies on its mother

The difference between these two words is simple to remember: dependant is a noun and dependent is an adjective.

  • The dependent calf relies on its mother for food and protection.
  • Official forms often ask how many dependants you have.
A very young baby lying on a lap; the adult's hand is holding one hand of the baby

A dependant

One way to remember the difference is to be confident that (like confident, silent, diligent and magnificent) dependent is an adjective, while dependant, like ant and pendant, is a noun. Try to remember these specific words as there also nouns that end in –ent and other adjectives that end in —ant.

Like a silent ant or a magnificent pendant, the adjective is dependent and the noun is dependant.

Two images: the upper image is an ant, the lower image is a gold pendant with a large central ruby, surrounded by two rings of diamonds

A silent ant and a magnificent pendant

A plate of waffles

Waffle alert: ‘is dependent on’

The phrase ‘is dependent on’ is a classic example of using needless words, of making your reader read more words than they should have to. If you find yourself using ‘is dependent on’, try replacing it with ‘depends on’.

  • instead of Our budget is dependent on getting a grant use Our budget depends on getting a grant
  • instead of The location of the party is dependent on the weather use The location of the party depends on the weather
  • instead of The ducklings are dependent on their mother use The ducklings depend on their mother.
A group of ducklings follow their mother across a grassed area

Ducklings depend on their mother.

Making depend into a verb rather than using it as an adjective will makes a sentence stronger: you can depend on it!

If you have found this post interesting, you can find a full index to my other posts on the index page. To be notified when I post a new topic, follow me on Facebook! If you have any particular questions you’d like me to answer in future posts, just  send me a message I’m always interested to learn what people think, and how you came across this site, so please post a comment.

If you think you would be interested in either my complete grammar course or an individual customised online course (particularly suited for people who don’t live in Melbourne), just click your preferred option.

Images: baby by on Unsplash ; duck and ducklings by by Vivek Kumar on Unsplash; elephants by Hu Chen on Unsplash; ant from rawpixel and pendant from rawpixel; waffles by Austin Park on Unsplash

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *