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depends on vs. depends upon
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2013/04/09
2:30pm
New River, AZ, USA
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Found myself writing the following sentence in a blog about telescopes:

"Your choice of instruments depends on which celestial objects you want to observe."

Then got hung up on whether it should be "depends on" or "depends upon." Visited several of my favorite grammar websites, and about the only consensus was that they are equivalent in meaning, but the latter is considered somewhat more formal, so the choice should fit the style of the rest of the article or paragraph. Since the target reading level is grade 8-9, even though it is tech writing, I decided to go with "depends on."

Interested to get some feedback from members of this forum. Much appreciated.

2013/04/09
10:08pm
Robert
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 'on' is a much better choice following 'depend,' because 'upon' would call attention to itself, dividing the emphasis,  unless that's the effect one desires.
But no competition here:
Once upon a time
The great responsibilities upon his shoulders
2013/04/10
11:12am
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"choice" seems singular to me so "depends" seems to be the correct verb form.

Emmett

2013/04/10
2:08pm
New River, AZ, USA
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Emmett said: "choice" seems singular to me so "depends" seems to be the correct verb form.

No arguments there. But my question was about "on" vs. "upon" and whether the choice was only a matter of style/formality, or if other considerations come into play.

 

2013/04/15
6:39am
engfish
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A simple Google search finds that "depends upon" yields 10.1 million hits and "depends on" retrieves 141 million. "On" wins in usage 14-1. "Upon" just seems pretentious, as Robert seems to point out.

2013/04/16
7:56am
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Heimhenge said

Emmett said: "choice" seems singular to me so "depends" seems to be the correct verb form.

No arguments there. But my question was about "on" vs. "upon" and whether the choice was only a matter of style/formality, or if other considerations come into play.

 

Obviously, I misread something. I will admit being under-the-weather on-and-off for the last couple of weeks.

Emmett

2013/04/16
9:08am
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Emmett: No worries. I too sometimes find myself answering a question that hasn't been asked.  :)

Engfish: Good catch. That's one thing I didn't think of trying (Googling both phrases) but usually do. Check out this interesting result from Ngrams. Looks like, for whatever reason, "depend on" surpasses "depend upon" sometime around 1940. Almost identical result if you substitute "depends." Previous to 1940 both phrases were essentially in a dead heat.

Now I'm wondering what happened at that time to change usage? Could it be a general move away from formality (or pretentiousness, as you and Robert indicate) to informality and simpler speech? WWII was just starting to ramp up at that time, so maybe the reason was simple expediency? I really have no good ideas.

 

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