Meaning of “depend on/upon sb/sth” in the English Dictionary

"depend on/upon sb/sth" in British English

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depend on/upon sb/sth

phrasal verb with depend uk /dɪˈpend/ us /dɪˈpend/ verb [ I ]


B2 to trust someone or something and know that that person or thing will help you or do what you want or expect him, her, or it to do:

You can always depend on Michael in a crisis.
[ + -ing verb ] You can't always depend on flights arriving on time.
humorous You can depend on Jana to be late (= she is always late).

More examples

  • In her last difficult years, she depended completely on her husband to look after her.
  • Surely a friend should be someone you can depend on in difficult times?
  • She was a fiercely independent lady who refused to depend on anyone.
  • I can't employ him in the shop if I can't depend on him to act responsibly.
  • You can depend on Jack - he's the most reliable man I know.


B2 to need something, or need the help and support of someone or something, in order to live or continue as before:

Elaine depends upon Bob completely for her happiness.

More examples

  • Most of the local population depend on fishing for their income.
  • Many species of tree depend on the wind for pollination.
  • A country's future prosperity depends, to an extent, upon the quality of education of its people.
  • A strong economy depends on a healthy manufacturing base.
  • In the past, navigation depended on a knowledge of the positions of the stars.

(Definition of “depend on/upon sb/sth” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)