Spelling explained: dependant or dependent?

Spelling explained: dependant or dependent?

Posted: 20th Nov 2014

THERE ARE SO many words which sound the same and are spelled differently. To make matters more difficult, a number of these words have related meanings, making it even easier for anyone uncertain to pick the wrong one.

Take dependant and dependent – two words that are not interchangeable in UK English. Dependent is an adjective whose meaning is ‘to rely on someone or something for support’. For example:

Joseph is dependent on his son Dave for help with the shopping.

Dependent is also used to indicate a need, or dependency, eg:

Chloe is drug dependent.

Dependant on the other hand is a noun, and so refers to the person or people who are involved in a dependent relationship. Usually dependant is used when referring to someone who relies financially on another’s help. For example:

Mary has three dependants: her daughters Carol and Avis, and her son Doug.

There is of course a complicating factor: this rule only applies in UK English. In US English, the word dependant does not exist. They use dependent interchangeably.

The UK versus US English problem is something that will continue to challenge us for many years to come – the only question I have is how long will it take for one form to dominate and wipe out the other?