Dependant or Dependent?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Dependant" and "Dependent"?

"Dependant" and "dependent" are not interchangeable. In the UK, there is a distinction between the two words. In the US, "dependant" is not used.

small British flag In British English:
  • "Dependant" is a person (usually a child or a spouse).
    • My wife is my only dependant. correct tick
  • "Dependent" means reliant on.
    • We are dependent on the weather. correct tick
small American flag In American English, use "dependent" for both.
  • My wife is my only dependent. correct tick
  • (In the US, "dependant" is a spelling mistake.)
  • We are dependent on the weather. correct tick
  • (When "dependent" means reliant on, the UK and US versions are the same.)
dependant or dependent (UK vs US)?

More about "Dependant"

For Brits, a "dependant" is a person who is dependent on someone else. (For example, a child is dependent on its parents. Therefore, a child is a dependant of its parents.)

Example sentence with "dependant":
  • All embassy staff and their dependants must be at the airport by 6 o'clock. correct tick
  • (In this example, the word "dependants" means spouses and children.)

More about "Dependent"

Both Americans and Brits use "dependent." The word "dependent" can be used as an adjective, but it is most commonly seen in the term "dependent on" and is used as a preposition. It has four closely related meanings:

(1) Contingent on

  • Dependent on the weather, we will start the final ascent at 5 o'clock. correct tick

(2) Reliant on

  • Our safety is dependent on the weather. correct tick

(3) Supported by

  • He is dependent on his parents. correct tick

(4) Addicted to

  • He is dependent on coffee. correct tick

Americans Can Ignore "Dependant"

Remember that Americans use "dependent" for the person, the adjective, and the preposition. For example:
  • I think my dependents are dependent on jelly beans. correct tick (small American flag) wrong cross (small British flag)
  • I think my dependants are dependent on jelly beans. wrong cross (small American flag) correct tick (small British flag)

A Video Summary

Here is a short video summarizing the difference between "dependant" and "dependent."

A Video Summary

Watch a video showing 10 big differences between British English and American English.

Are you a visual learner? Do you prefer video to text? Here is a list of all our grammar videos.

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