Pending or Impending?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Pending" and "Impending"?

"Pending" and "impending" are easy to confuse because they both describe a future event. However, there is a clear difference between "pending" and "impending."
  • "Pending" means awaiting an outcome (e.g., a decision, a settlement, a conclusion, a confirmation).
    • Sarah's exam results are pending.
    • (This means that Sarah's exam results have not yet been received. "Pending" does not give a sense that the results are due soon.)
  • "Impending" means imminent or about to happen.
    • Sarah's exam results are impending.
    • (This means that Sarah's exam results are due in the very near future.)
    Of note, the word "impending" often carries a connotation of something negative or threatening.
    • The house is likely to flood during the impending storm.
    pending or impending?

    More about "Pending" and "Impending"

    The words "pending" and "impending" are close in meaning to the extent that Thesauruses offer one as a synonym for the other, but they're not the same. While confusing these words does not constitute a grammatical howler, you might portray yourself as a muddled thinker if you use the wrong one.


    The adjective "pending" means awaiting an outcome (e.g., a decision, a settlement, a conclusion, or a confirmation).

    Example sentences with "pending":
    • There are four pending issues.
    • The test results are pending.
    • This business is pending.
    • Good luck with the pending litigation.
    "Pending" can also be used as a preposition with a meaning similar to "until":
    • He was released on bail pending an appeal.
    • Her trial is suspended pending further evidence.


    The adjective "impending" means "imminent" or "about to happen." It often carries a negative connotation (i.e., the imminent event will be bad).

    Example sentences with "impending":
    • They waited for the impending storm.
    • Their impending demise ought to have been avoided.
    • The battle is impending.

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    See Also

    adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are adjectives? What are prepositions? Glossary of easily confused words

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