depend (on)

riglos

Senior Member
Argentina - Spanish
emma42 said:
It depends to whom you are writing. If it's an email asking for an application form for a job, for example, I write "yours sincerely" or "yours faithfully". If it's to a friend, I write Emma, E, or any number of silly pseudonyms. Attila the Hun is one of my favourites!
Hi emma! Your post triggered one question:

Is it Ok to say "it depends to whom you are writing"? Or should it be "it depends on to whom you are writing?"

Thanks!

Mara.-
 
  • elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    riglos said:
    Hi emma! Your post triggered one question:

    Is it Ok to say "it depends to whom you are writing"? Or should it be "it depends on to whom you are writing?"

    Thanks!

    Mara.-
    No, "on" is not necessary. Another example:

    -How much will my birthday present cost?
    -Well, it depends what you want.

    In fact, "depends on to whom you are writing" does not sound good at all. If anything, one would most likely say/write "depends on who(m) you are writing to."
     

    TrentinaNE

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (American)
    elroy said:
    No, "on" is not necessary. Another example:

    -How much will my birthday present cost?
    -Well, it depends what you want.
    Really? I'd always say "depends on" in this context. Is this a BE/AE difference? Dictionary.com notes:
    Usage Note: In writing, depend is followed by on or upon when indicating condition or contingency, as in It depends on who is in charge. Omission of the preposition is typical of casual speech.

    Elizabeth
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    TrentinaNE said:
    Really? I'd always say "depends on" in this context. Is this a BE/AE difference?
    Well, I doubt it's a British-American difference, because I speak American English. ;)

    In writing, I would use "on" but are you sure you never drop the "on" colloquially in informal contexts?

    Google returns 242,000 results for "it depends what you." Yes, there are 807,000 results for "it depends on what you" (and I agree that that's more correct), but I still think the number of results for the former is sizable. They can't all be typos, can they? :)

    By the way, I'm splitting this portion of the thread. Not only is it off-topic, but I'm intrigued now and think it deserves its own thread! :)
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    Can I take a middle position? I repeated "It depends what you want to do" and "It depends on what you want to do" many, many times. "It depends on" won for sounding like what I'd say when I'm teaching!! "It depends 'n what you want to do" sounds most like me when I'm not performing!
     

    TrentinaNE

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (American)
    elroy said:
    In writing, I would use "on" but are you sure you never drop the "on" colloquially in informal contexts?
    Quite. It sounds very odd and incomplete to me. I was surprised to see that many "hits" on Google. Perhaps its a generational rather than transatlantic difference. :)

    Elizabeth
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    You folks are all so reasonable, calm, and moderate. I go to extremes:

    Formal speech and writing: It depends on what you.....

    Informal: Depends what you.......


    Q. Shall I buy two lobsters for each guest or three?

    A. (Formal) That depends on whether you want them to return for dinner tomorrow and the next day.

    A. (Informal) Depends on your wallet.


    elroy said:
    Well, I doubt it's a British-American difference, because I speak American English. ;)

    In writing, I would use "on" but are you sure you never drop the "on" colloquially in informal contexts?

    Google returns 242,000 results for "it depends what you." Yes, there are 807,000 results for "it depends on what you" (and I agree that that's more correct), but I still think the number of results for the former is sizable. They can't all be typos, can they? :)

    By the way, I'm splitting this portion of the thread. Not only is it off-topic, but I'm intrigued now and think it deserves its own thread! :)
     

    TrentinaNE

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (American)
    cuchuflete said:
    Q. Shall I buy two lobsters for each guest or three?

    A. (Formal) That depends on whether you want them to return for dinner tomorrow and the next day.

    A. (Informal) Depends on your wallet.
    But cuchu, both of those have "depends on..." :)

    Apparently I'm one of those rare birds whose speech and writing are very closely aligned. ;)

    E
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Formal speech and writing: It depends on what you.....

    Informal: Depends what you.......
    But the second one here doesn't. :)

    I agree completely with the formal/informal distinction - bearing in mind that I frequently use "on" informally as well.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Yes, I think so, provided you realize that 'wh-word' is a convenient label that includes all question markers including how, and in this situation includes the two markers of subordinate yes-no questions, if and whether:

    It depends when you want it done by.
    It depends how you want to do it.
    It depends if you want to do it.
    It depends whether you want it done quickly.
     

    Ariel Knightly

    Senior Member
    Brazilian Portuguese
    I think they could all be mistakes.
    You mean the omission of on could be just a mere typo? Can't it be just a question of dialectal variation? This is the entry for depend in my Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary:
    to be decided by or to change according to the stated thing
    Whether or not we go to Spain for our holiday depends on the cost.
    [ + question word ] I might go to the cinema tomorrow - it depends what time I get home from work.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I think you might be right, Ariel, that there's some dialectal variation going on here, as well as different degrees of formality.

    The Google Books ngrams for It depends what, It depends on what seem to indicate that, though both AmE and BrE use the preposition-free version, BrE is comparatively more inclined to do so.

    That seems to fit with the discussion in the earlier part of this thread:).



    EDIT: Oops, I forgot to put a link to the ngrams - BrE, AmE.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    You mean the omission of on could be just a mere typo? Can't it be just a question of dialectal variation? This is the entry for depend in my Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary:
    My real point was that the Google numbers aren't convincing. On the other hand, when Internet posters write something 68 million times, some of them are bound to be mistakes (at least one (or a million) who typed "depends what" meant to type "depends on what" and vice versa).
     

    ribran

    Senior Member
    English - American
    I'm surprised to see such a wide AmE/BrE gap in the ngrams. In case anyone might be misled, I should say that it's certainly not uncommon to drop the "of" in AmE.* I suppose the main difference is in our ideas of how acceptable it is in formal writing.

    *This may only be true of the speech of the young 'uns, as Trentina suggests above. :)
     
    Last edited:

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    It's not that large a gap really. Contemporary AmE prefers 'on' by a 4:1 or 5:1 margin, according to those graphs, BrE by a mere 2:1 or less, but one fifth of all (AmE) printed books is a huge number still, of all degrees of formality - as a quick look at the Google Books entries behind the graphs shows. Most of the first pages of hits are in scholarly texts of some kind, not merely in novels or other conversational forms. Whenever there are two variants, one is bound to be more common than the other ('each other' versus 'one another', for example, or 'help someone [to] pack'), but that doesn't make the less common one any less preferable, as long as we're still within the 5:1 range. It can translate to advice to learners when they start coming in at perhaps 20:1.
     
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