Dependent vs. Dependant: What’s the Difference?

Because American and British English sometimes have different spellings for the same word, beginning writers and English language learners can easily become confused.

In some cases, the spelling of a word also changes based on its usage in a sentence. Dependent is one such word. In the past, it had been spelled as dependant when used as a noun. As an adjective, writers used dependent.

Modern English has all but dispensed with this differentiation. It still exists in British English, though it is rarely enforced. Continue reading to find out in what situations you should use dependent and dependant.

What is the Difference Between Dependent and Dependant?

In this article, I will compare dependent vs. dependant. I will use each in a sentence, and then I will show you a helpful trick to use when deciding if dependent or dependant is the better choice.

When to Use Dependent

dependent versus dependant What does dependent mean? Dependent can fill multiple roles in a sentence. It can be an adjective, where it means the condition of relying on someone or something.

For example,

  • A dependent clause is not a complete sentence by itself.
  • The researchers hoped their independent variable would influence their dependent variable, so they could justify more funding.
  • Bahrain also faces increasing economic pressure as its oil-dependent economy has suffered from depressed global crude prices. –The Washington Post

It can also be a noun, where it refers to someone who relies on someone else to provide basic necessities. In this sense, it is most often used in the context of taxation.

  • If you claim someone else’s children as dependents, you could be investigated by the IRS.

When to Use Dependant

Definition of dependant definition and definition of dependent definitionWhat does dependant mean? Dependant is an older word than dependent. Historically, dependant was the preferred spelling in British English when used as a noun. As an adjective, dependent has always been the preferred spelling. This distinction is waning, however, with dependent being with increased frequency in all contexts.

  • Determine if you are a student dependant (under 23), a mature student dependant (over 23 but living with parents on January 1st, 2016), or an independent mature student (over 23) who can prove independent living prior to October 1st, 2015. –The Irish Times

American English, for example, has used dependent in all contexts since at least the mid-20th century. There is no reason to use dependant when writing for American audiences.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define dependant and define dependentHere is a helpful trick to remember dependant vs. dependent.

Dependent is the safe choice in all contexts. It has become accepted even as a British English noun, where dependant was the historically preferred choice. Dependent is preferred as an American English noun and as an adjective.

You can remember to avoid using dependant since dependant and avoid both contain an “a.” Dependent is the better choice in all contexts, even for British English nouns.

Summary

Is it dependent or dependant? Dependent and dependant are two variants of the same word.

  • As an adjective, this word means the condition of relying on someone or something.
  • As a noun, it is usually something a person claims when filing their taxes.

Dependant was the historically preferred variant when used as a noun in British English, but today both variants are accepted. American English uses dependent as a noun, and dependent is the adjective variant in both American and British English.

Dependent will always work, so avoid dependant by remembering the a it shares with avoid. If you still can’t decide whether you should use dependant or dependent, you can refer back to this article for guidance.

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