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When should one use pending, as opposed to left or remaining?

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"Left" and "remaining" are synonyms.

I have only four eggs left.

There are only four eggs remaining in the refrigerator.

You can also use "remaining" as an adjective, as in

The remaining eggs were rotten.

You couldn't use "left" in that construction.

"Pending" is a different matter. It refers to something that is about to happen or is in suspension for the moment.

Their pending divorce weighed heavily on the children.

It can also be a synonym for "until", as in

Pending a trip to the grocery store, we will not be able to make omelets for everyone, since we only have four eggs left.

  • @Robusto_ Fascinating. I wonder why left can't be used as an attributive participial adjective whereas remaining can? Offhand, I can't think of many participles that can't be used thus. Also, what part of speech would you say left is in I have only four eggs left, please - assuming you think it's sensible to classify it separately. Admittedly, it doesn't seem to fill a traditional adjective role, but, as with we are three dollars over, it hardly seems adverbial. Were it not for the over analogue, we could probably argue that it is a participle. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 21 '12 at 8:06
  • I would guess it's because of the confusion between left as past tense of the transitive form of the berb leave ("four eggs left") and left as adj. meaning "on the left side. Even if the ambiguity is explicitly dealt with, it just sounds awkward: "The stolen eggs were sorely missed, as the left eggs were mostly rotten." One would almost certainly substitute "remaining" in that case, as the listener would still have to work to parse the meaning of left in that context. – Robusto Aug 21 '12 at 11:44
  • Might be worthwhile mentioning leftover which can be used in "The leftover eggs were rotten." – Disillusioned Nov 7 '16 at 5:16

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