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Difference Between Dependent and Dependant

english wordsDependent vs Dependant

The difference between dependent and dependant goes beyond their usage. They are, in fact, two different words with two different meanings. For starters, dependent is classified as an adjective. Being dependent upon one’s parents, or being dependent on substances, would be the most common and correct way to use this word.

Being dependent means to be ‘reliant upon’. It indicates that you need something (at least in opinion) in order to maintain your welfare. This applies to being substance dependent as well, as being without the substance would cause withdrawal symptoms, and often force the dependent individual to face issues. You can be drug dependent when it comes to chronic pain management as well.

The use of the word dependant is different, because it is a noun. If you have a dependant, it means you have someone who is reliant on you for their wellbeing. Children and the elderly are often referred to as dependants. Of course, tax laws refer to dependants as those under the age of 18 that you are responsible to provide for on a regular basis.

We often confuse these words because we actually don’t usually pronounce them correctly. It is most common to pronounce the word dependant as though it were the word dependent. In truth, correct pronunciation of the word would clarify the ‘A’ sound at the end. It is supposed to be pronounced more like de-pend-ANT. Since we usually pronounce the words identically, we miss out on auditory clues that would help us maintain a distinction between the two.

We are all dependent on something. We might be dependent on the weather for our day to turn out as planned, or we are dependent upon our country for the life that we live. We might be dependent upon prescription medication for good health, or eyeglasses or contacts for good sight. This does not necessarily mean we are dependants of anyone. We are officially relieved of that status once we turn 18. However, if we are married or in a committed long-term relationship, and are not the primary breadwinner, we become financially dependent upon our spouse or significant other. This, by definition, would make us our significant other’s dependant. Just not in legal terms.

Dependent is also used to describe situations. We’ve already mentioned drug dependency, but it can also indicate the reason for failure. ‘The grant dependent educational system’, or ‘the rain dependent crops’, can be highly descriptive in just a few words, rather than using long winded sentences.


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2 Comments

  1. Great article, but please check your punctuation next time:

    “Being dependent upon ones parents” should read

    “Being dependent upon one’s parents”.

  2. Actually, it is important to note that, though we may think we should pronounce them differently, we pronounce them exactly the same. Phonetically there is no difference between the two final syllables.

    If you would like an explanation, google “schwa” (unfortunately the Wikipedia article is too technical to be recommended).

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