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I have been trying for some time to figure out the correct term for a grammatical error that drives me up the wall. It is when people use the phrase "depending on" the 'wrong way around'.

Where thing A actually depends on B but they say "B depends on A".

The best example I can think of right now is

  • "Whether it rains depends on whether I'll wear my raincoat or not."

It just feels so wrong but I don't know how to properly explain to someone why it's wrong, or the correct terminology for this.

Does this have a name? Is it actually bad grammar or am I being overly pedantic?

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    It's certainly not bad grammar: the incorrect sentence is perfectly formed, but doesn't mean what the speaker wants it to mean (it's semantically wrong)
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 10:47
  • Variables are often codependent (If he's drunk, he gets angry / If he's angry, he gets drunk), so sometimes it's a stylistic choice which order to present them in. Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 11:14
  • Why would you want to reverse the normal order? Is it intended to be a humorous comment? Btw, "whether I'll wear my raincoat or not" is an interrogative clause.
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 13:44
  • People are ignorant. That's the truth of the matter. It's just misuse of a term.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 15:34
  • You misunderstand. It’s a joke. It means that if I wear my raincoat it’s bound to be sunny.
    – David
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 18:41

1 Answer 1

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Catachresis has a broadened sense, beyond the well-known 'wrong choice of a single word', for example using 'luxuriant' for 'luxurious':

catachresis [noun; pl. catachreses]

  1. The misapplication of a word or phrase ....

[AHD]

Dictionary.com adds that this may well be in error (two senses are conflated in this listing; the appropriate one has been singled out):

catachresis [noun]

misuse ... of words, ... occurring either in error ....

[Dictionary.com]

.............

The correct phrasings, "Whether it rains or not will determine (/ inform / influence) whether I'll wear my raincoat," sound rather rarefied, so are also better avoided in conversation.

I've not seen any evidence in the usual respected dictionaries (M-W, Collins, AHD ...) that popular usage is making the causal sense of 'depend on' acceptable.

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