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I've come across the phrase hinge on recently and it reminds me another phrase rely on,which I think to myself, they have similar meaning even though I couldn't see rely on as a synonym of "hing on" on thesaurus.com.

Can we use "hinge on" instead of "rely on" in these example sentences I got from dictionaries?

  1. You can’t rely on good weather for the whole trip.
  2. The system relies too heavily on one person.
  3. These days we rely heavily on computers to organize our work.
  4. As babies, we rely entirely on others for food.
  5. You should rely on your own judgement
  6. You can rely on me to keep your secret.
  7. He can't be relied on to tell the truth.
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  • I don't hinge on dictionaries!
    – Avigrail
    Jan 27, 2015 at 22:38
  • @Avigrail I am not sure but it seems to me that we can say "ESL students hinge on dictionaries" but not in trust sense.
    – Mrt
    Jan 27, 2015 at 22:45
  • It was a pun ;)
    – Avigrail
    Jan 27, 2015 at 22:46
  • @Avigrail nice one :)
    – Mrt
    Jan 27, 2015 at 23:03
  • See also ell.stackexchange.com/questions/32180/… which discusses "turn on", "depend on", and "pivot".
    – Jasper
    Jan 28, 2015 at 18:46

3 Answers 3

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Think of it this way: "rely" is almost like "depend" the difference is that "rely" is often used in the sense of a person relying on something or someone. "Depend on" can be used the same way, but when discussing how one event can't happen without another, we are more likely to say "B depends on A" than "B relies on A".

However, "hinge" is taken from the word for the hardware a door swings on, and is extended to a metaphorical sense that is related. So the best place to use "hinge" in this metaphorical sense is not when B's existence or nature depends on A, but rather when the direction that B can go depends on and is constrained by A. And not physically. Often historical events are said to have "hinged" on some condition. If the condition had been otherwise, the outcome would have, figuratively, "swung" the other way. So if you say that event B "hinged" on condition A, it means that A somehow guided the outcome (B).

And I don't know of any case where we would say a person "hinges" on anything, or that anything "hinges" on a person; but a person's actions, or success, etc. could "hinge" on someone else's actions.

You wouldn't say, for example, as Avigrail seemed to imply, that a baby "hinges" on its parents; it "depends" on them. It is unlikely a baby knows what it means to "rely" on them. But you could say the baby's eventual character "hinges" on how his parents discipline him.

Nor would you say "we can't hinge on him to tell the truth", we would say we can't {rely on, depend on, count on, trust} him to tell the truth.

So, I suggest that you would not be speaking idiomatic English if you were to substitute "hinge" in ANY of the examples you cite.

I hope this helps; I wish I could cite some source of more examples where "hinge" is appropriately used.

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The big thing with all of these examples is that people don't hinge on things. Outcomes do.

"When I threw an outdoor party, I hinged on the weather." - Wrong.

"When I threw an outdoor party, my success hinged on the weather." - Right.

When deciding whether to use "hinge", think of it as a synonym for "turn, bend, veer", and think of events as something that moves forward along a set course - like a river, or a railway track. A factor that they hinge on is a factor that can cause their course to bend - left towards one outcome, or right towards another.

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Not sure what country you are from but when I translate rely on and hinge on it clearly shows the difference.

To rely on means that you have faith in some process/person/thing.

"I rely on you" would mean "I trust you/believe in you".

To hinge on means that you need something to happen in order to do something else. So it is not about trust but more in the direction of hope/dependance or a condition.

"I hinge on him doing the right thing. Otherwise I'll lose my job."

I think a trip could hinge on the weather, if it was be cancelled in case of bad weather.
The system hinges on one person.
As babies, we hinge on others.
He can't hinge on him telling the truth. (?)

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