Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

Dependant and dependent

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This is how things used to be:

A ‘dependant’ is someone who depends on someone else, usually financially. For example:

I have three dependants: my husband, a child, and my aunt.

‘Dependent’ means to depend on someone or something. For example:

My husband, child and aunt are dependent on me.

The end result is dependent on how well everyone performs.

However…

My Oxford Dictionary of English tells me that it is now acceptable to spell ‘dependant’ either way: ‘dependant’ or ‘dependent’. I think that’s just confusing, but don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just letting you know.

But don’t get too carried away with this mix and match approach. ‘Dependent’ as in, My husband is dependent on me, must always be spelt like that, not with the ‘ant’ ending.

Non-compulsory technical stuff

‘Dependant’ (or the now apparently accepted alternative ‘dependent’) is a noun.

‘Dependent’ is an adjective

More commonly confused words

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