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I find so many different "rules" on the internet that it is really hard to understand when to use these words: dependent and dependant.

In these examples, what would you pick and why?

  1. "Your dependants ..."
  2. Is your dependant over the age of 12?
  3. Are you a dependant of John Smith?
  4. What is the name of your youngest dependant?
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The internet as a whole is not a very reliable source of information... – Mr Lister Feb 11 '13 at 19:10
With the exception of this site... :P – American Luke Feb 11 '13 at 19:26
@Luke I used an out-of-internet source of information for my answer. – Mr Lister Feb 11 '13 at 19:28
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Your examples are all correct, because the word dependant is a noun in all of them.

By the way, my dictionary says that AE can use dependent for nouns too. So unless you have strict rules to stick to AE or BE, you'd get away with using either.

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Thanks. What if I want to stick to BE? Would that make any difference? – leoinfo Feb 11 '13 at 19:22
Yes, then "dependant" is the noun, "dependent" is the adjective. – Mr Lister Feb 11 '13 at 19:23
@leoin, yes Lister is right, but a little flexibility here would be worth a lot, given the arbitrary rule of -ent or -ant in many other words. – user19148 Feb 11 '13 at 19:36
I believe that formal AmE is the same as BrE: "dependant" is the noun and "dependent" is the adjective. But this is a common enough "error" that it has found its way into the dictionaries. (Google Ngrams seems to show that this "error" is actually more common in the U.K. than in the U.S., but since the U.S. Government uses "dependents" as a noun, it isn't officially an error in the U.S.) – Peter Shor Feb 11 '13 at 19:46

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