Have you noticed the spellings “dependent” and “dependant” used anywhere? This might seem odd if you’re from the USA, as American English always uses the spelling “dependent.” But things get more complicated once you’re outside the United States! To help you avoid errors in your work, then, here is our guide to the difference between “dependent” and “dependant.”
Dependent in American English
In American English, the word “dependent” has two key meanings:
As a noun meaning “a person who depends on someone else for support,” such as a child or elderly person who cannot take care of themselves.
As an adjective meaning “reliant upon” or “determined by.”
So, to put it another way, a dependent (noun) is dependent (adjective) upon other people. Using the same spelling for both terms makes it easy to remember, especially since “e” is the only vowel!
But other English dialects, like British, Canadian, and Australian English, distinguish between the two uses with two spellings: dependent and dependant. Read on to find out how this works!
Some people are responsible for multiple dependants.
In US English, though, we would use “dependent” in this context instead.
Dependent (Adjective: Reliant Upon)
Outside the USA, “dependent” is an adjective meaning “reliant upon.” This can be to rely on someone or something for support, such as financial support:
I’m dependent upon my family for rent money.
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Or it can indicate an addiction, such as an alcohol or drug dependency:
He has been dependent on alcohol for three years.
Alternatively, “dependent” can also mean “determined by,” indicating a cause and effect relationship. We can therefore use it to describe something being contingent on something else. For instance:
The accuracy of the experiment is dependent on the equipment used.
These are all the same in US English, so this should be easy to remember!
Summary: Dependent or Dependant?
If you’re using American English, there’s no problem here: simply use “dependent” as a noun and an adjective and get on with your day!
But in other English dialects, there is an important distinction:
Dependent is an adjective meaning “reliant upon” or “determined by.”
Dependant is a noun meaning “a person who depends on someone else for support,” such as a child or elderly person.
Remember, though, that “dependant” is not usually used in American English. You will only need this spelling if writing for an audience outside the US, such as in the UK or Australia. And if you want to make sure your writing is always correct for your audience, why not have it proofread by the experts? Simply select the dialect required when you upload you document.