Angela’s ABCs: Dependent and Dependant by Angela Caldin

One letter makes all the difference

There is often confusion over the words dependent and dependant.

Dependant is a noun:

A dependant is a person, often a child or a partner, who is supported by someone else; a person who relies on another, especially a family member, for financial support.


  • All Palace staff and their dependants must be ready to leave when the revolution comes. 
  • He has eight dependants of varying ages from his three marriages.

Dependent is an adjective:

Dependent means contingent on, relying on, supported by, addicted to, and subordinate to.


  • The ferry to Great Barrier Island is dependent on the weather for a safe crossing. 
  • Tokelau is one of New Zealand’s dependent territories.
  • She is dependent on her friend to help write her essays.
  • Plants are dependent on light for survival.
  • He is dependent on his mother even though he’s over thirty years old.
  • Many homeless people are dependent on drugs and alcohol to get through the day.
  • In the US, the individual states are dependent on the federal government to some extent.
  • A dependent clause cannot stand alone as a complete sentence.

An example for both:

  • A child is dependent (adjective) on his or her parents; therefore, a child is a dependant (noun) of his or her parents.


  • There’s no problem here if you’re American: both the noun and the adjective are usually spelled the same (dependent).
  • There’s no such word as independant.  It’s a misspelling of independent.



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