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I thought you always had to use "on" after "depend" to mention the complement, as in:

Choosing the right bike depends on what you want to use it for. (example taken from a dictionary)

However, I've come across this:

It depends whether you want to participate or not.

The preposition is omitted.

So, my question is: Is it possible to omit "on" in my first example:

Choosing the right bike depends what you want to use it for.

My guess is that it's not possible, and that you can only omit it in the personal expression "it depends + wh- word", but I want to check.

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  • I don't know about any particular rule, but I want to say "It depends on whether you want to participate or not."
    – Em.
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 23:07
  • "It depends if you want to participate or not" also works.
    – Peter
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 23:12
  • 1
    Omitting the "on" is non-standard. You'll run across it in casual use, but there's no reason to emulate that; using the "on" will not mark your speech as formal or affected. Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 23:53

2 Answers 2

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"It depends whether you want to participate or not." is a very imperfect sentence. First, "whether" implies "or not" which makes the latter redundant and superfluous. In addition, and in formal communication, "on" is required, and "if" is better that "whether."

Considering "Choosing the right bike depends what you want to use it for," the "it for" is colloquial\slang\poor grammar. I would say, "Choosing the right bike depends on how it will be used." The preposition is necessary to juxtapose or pre-position the two ideas on either side of it, choosing and using.

Notwithstanding, language is fluid and mostly only what matters is the communication of ideas from author to audience.

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If the usage follows a definition of the phrasal verb depend on, you shouldn't omit "on".

1) depend on - be contingent on; "The outcomes rides on the results of the election"; "Your grade will depends on your homework"

applies to your examples. So in:

Choosing the right bike depends on what you want to use it for.

you can't leave out "on". Also it reads badly. In:

It depends whether you want to participate or not.

the meaning follows a definition of depend:

2) To be determined, influenced, or contingent: a grade depending on the results of the final exam.

In this example "to be determined" is probably closest, but the difference is slim, so I would say using "on" is optional. I reads OK either way.

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