Commonly Confused Suffixes: -ant vs. -ent  

The suffixes “-ant” and “-ent” are both used to form nouns of agency (persons or things who perform an action) and adjectives that describe a state or quality. They both derive from the conjugations of Latin and French verbs; in some cases, they seem to “attach” to existing base words (e.g., accountant, persistent), while other times they are adjacent to roots that could not exist on their own (brilliant, resilient).
The suffixes “-ant” and “-ent” are especially confusing because they are both common, have similar spellings, and are (usually) pronounced the exact same way (/ənt/). For words naturally ending in “-ant” or “-ent,” there are no real clues to help us determine which ending is correct (beyond knowing the word’s etymology); we just have to memorize them or check a dictionary to be sure. When “-ant” and “-ent” attach to existing base words, though, there are a few conventions we can follow to choose the correct one.
Finally, it’s important to note that the conventions in this section are not intended to describe when a certain base or root word can take “-ant” or “-ent”; they are merely meant to help you decide which ending to use when you know that a word ends in one of the two.

Rules for words ending in “-ant”

Rule 1: Use “-ant” with verbs ending in “-ate”

Verbs that end in “-ate” can often be made into nouns of agency or, less commonly, adjectives by adding the suffix “-ant.” Note that this suffix completely replaces “-ate”. For example:
  • accelerate→accelerant
  • adulterate→adulterant
  • anticipate→anticipant
  • celebrate→celebrant
  • communicate→communicant
  • contaminate→contaminant
  • desiccate→desiccant
  • deviate→deviant
  • dominate→dominant
  • emigrate→emigrant
  • exfoliate→exfoliant
  • hesitate→hesitant
  • immigrate→immigrant
  • intoxicate→intoxicant
  • irritate→irritant
  • lubricate→lubricant
  • migrate→migrant
  • mutate→mutant
  • officiate→officiant
  • radiate→radiant
  • stagnate→stagnant
  • stimulate→stimulant
  • tolerate→tolerant
  • vacate→vacant

Rule 2: Use “-ant” with verbs ending in silent E

In addition to verbs ending in “-ate,” the “-ant” ending will usually attach to verbs ending in other consonants + silent E. Unlike “-ate,” though, “-ant” only replaces the silent E in these examples. For instance:
  • aspire→aspirant
  • confide→confidant*
  • convulse→convulsant (used in the term anticonvulsant)
  • determine→determinant
  • dispute→disputant
  • inhale→inhalant
  • insure→insurant
  • exhale→exhalant
  • grieve→grievant
  • observe→observant
  • perspire→perspirant (used in the term antiperspirant)
  • serve→servant
(*Not to be confused with confident; we’ll talk about how to remember the difference a little further on.)
Note that there are a few exceptions to this rule. First, three verbs ending in “-ide” will take the “-ent” suffix instead:
  • preside→president
  • provide→provident
  • reside→resident
Also, silent E can be used to dictate that final C and G take the “soft” pronunciation (/s/ and /ʤ/, respectively), as in coalesce or emerge. As we’ll see further on, soft C and G are always followed by “-ent” rather than “-ant” (e.g., coalesceent and emergent).

Rule 3: Use “-ant” with words ending in “-y”

Words ending in “-y” commonly take the related suffix “-ance,” which exclusively forms nouns, but only a few will take “-ant” (usually to form adjectives). In nearly all of these, Y changes to I. For example:
  • comply→compliant
  • defy→defiant
  • luxury→luxuriant
  • rely→reliant
  • vary→variant
Uniquely, the Y in the verb occupy does not change to I; it is simply omitted:
  • occupy→occupant
One exception to this rule is the verb study, which has the associated noun of agency student.

Rule 4: Use “-ant” if it comes after “-ct-” or “-lt-”

If a stem or base word ends in the consonant cluster “-ct-” or (less commonly) “-lt-,” the ending will always be spelled “-ant.” For example:
CT + “-ant”
LT + “-ant”
attractant
disinfectant
expectant
humectant
injectant
octant
protectant
reactant
reluctant
surfactant
consultant
exultant
resultant

Rule 5: Use “-ant” if it comes after “-or-”

If the last letters of the stem or root are “-or-,” the word will always end in the suffix “-ant”:
  • colorant
  • corroborant
  • deodorant
  • expectorant
  • ignorant
  • odorant
  • roborant
  • sonorant

Rule 6: Use “-ant” if it follows a hard C or G

If a stem or base word ends in a “hard C” (the /k/ sound) or a “hard G” (the /g/ sound), the ending will always be spelled “-ant.” For example:
Hard C + “-ant”
Hard G + “-ant”
applicant
communicant
desiccant
mendicant
significant
vacant
arrogant
congregant
elegant
extravagant
fumigant
litigant
segregant
(Many of these examples also fall under the “-ate” rule as well.)
This is also true when a hard G is followed by N or R:
GN + “-ant”
GR + “-ant”
benignant
indignant
malignant
poignant
pregnant
regnant
repugnant
stagnant
conflagrant
emigrant
flagrant
fragrant
migrant
vagrant

Rules for words ending in “-ent”

Rule 1: Use “-ent” if it follows a soft C or G

We saw already that words will take the “-ant” ending if it is preceded by a “hard C” (/k/) or a “hard G” (/g/). If the stem or base word ends in a “soft C” (/s/) or a “soft G” (/ʤ/), however, it will be followed by the “-ent” suffix or ending. For instance:
Soft C + “-ent”
Soft G + “-ent”
ascent
acquiescent
adjacent
complacent
decent
innocent
luminescent
magnificent
quiescent
reminiscent
reticent
translucent
astringent
contingent
convergent
diligent
divergent
emergent
indulgent
intelligent
negligent
stringent
tangent
urgent
There are a few exceptions to this, though:
  • pageant (/ˈpædʒənt/)
  • sergeant (/ˈsɑrdʒənt/)

Rule 2: Use “-ent” with verbs ending in “-er” or “-ere”

ER + -ent
ERE + -ent
defer→deferent
deter→deterrent
differ→different
refer→referent
adhere→adherent
cohere→coherent
inhere→inherent
revere→reverent
There is one exception to this, though it is uncommon in everyday speech or writing:
  • alter→alterant

Rule 3: Use “-ent” if it follows “-id-”

If the root word ends in “-id-,” it is much more likely that the suffix will be “-ent” rather than “-ant.” For example:
  • accident
  • confident
  • diffident
  • dissident
  • evident
  • incident
  • occident
  • strident
  • trident
As we said earlier, there are three verbs ending in “-ide” that are also associated with the “-ent” ending:
  • preside→president
  • provide→provident
  • reside→resident
Finally, there are two exceptions in which “-id-” is followed by “-ant” instead: confidant (which we saw earlier) and oxidant. We can remember confidant (as opposed to confident) because it is pronounced with a secondary stress on -dant (/ˈkɑnfɪˌdɑnt/ or /ˈkɑnfɪˌdænt/), so the A sound is now distinctly audible. And we can remember the spelling of oxidant because it is something that causes oxidation.

Rule 4: Use “-ent” if it follows “-u-”

While there are a few words in which “-ant” follows “-u-,” it is much more likely for the ending to be “-ent.” For instance:
  • affluent
  • confluent
  • congruent
  • constituent
  • delinquent
  • eloquent
  • fluent
  • frequent
  • grandiloquent
  • mellifluent
  • sequent
  • subsequent
  • unguent
As we said, though, there are a few words that do end in “-uant”:
  • continuant
  • evacuant
  • fluctuant
  • piquant
  • pursuant
  • truant

Words that can take either “-ant” or “-ent”

To make matters even more complicated, there are a few words that can take either spelling. For some of these examples, one spelling is simply a less-common variant version of the other. However, in a few instances, the meaning of the word will determine which spelling is appropriate.

Variant spellings

In these examples, both spellings are considered correct, but one is much more common and is thus preferred over the other:
Preferred spelling
Variant spelling
ascendant
ascendent
propellant
propellent
repellent
repellant

Spelling determined by meaning

With these pairs of words, one particular spelling is more commonly associated with the word’s meaning as a noun, while the other is associated with its meaning as an adjective.
Noun
Adjective
dependant
(especially in British English; more commonly dependent in American English)
dependent
(never spelled dependant as an adjective)
descendant
(never spelled descendent as a noun)
descendent
(can be spelled descendant as an adjective, but this is an uncommon variant)
pendant
(can be spelled pendent as a noun, but this is an uncommon variant)
pendent
(can be spelled pendant as an adjective, but this is an uncommon variant)
Remember, the word independent is an adjective, so, like the adjective dependent, it is always spelled with “-ent.”

Words that we have to learn

While there are a few helpful conventions and spelling patterns we can follow to help us know whether a word takes the “-ant” or “-ent” ending, there are quite a few words we just have to memorize.
Words ending “-ant”
Words ending “-ent”
abundant
acceptant
accordant
accountant
adamant
affiant
allegiant
ascendant
aspirant
assailant
assonant
attendant
blatant
brilliant
buoyant
claimant
clairvoyant
cognizant
combatant
concordant
consonant
coolant
covenant
currant
defendant
depressant
dissonant
dormant
elephant
enchant
entrant
errant
exorbitant
extant
exuberant
flagrant
flamboyant
flippant
gallant
gallivant
hydrant
important
incessant
infant
informant
inhabitant
insouciant
jubilant
merchant
militant
miscreant
nonchalant
obeisant
peasant
pedant
penchant
petulant
pleasant
pliant
pollutant
rampant
redundant
relaxant
relevant
remnant
repentant
restaurant
retardant
sealant
sibilant
somnambulant
tenant
tremulant
trenchant
triumphant
valiant
verdant
vibrant
vigilant
absorbent
abstinent
adsorbent
antecedent
apparent
belligerent
benevolent
competent
consistent
convenient
correspondent
current
decadent
deficient
dependent
despondent
efficient
eminent
equivalent
excellent
excipient
existent
expedient
fervent
flatulent
fluent
fraudulent
immanent
imminent
inadvertent
inclement
incumbent
independent
insistent
insolent
insolvent
intelligent
intermittent
lenient
malevolent
negligent
obedient
omnipotent
omniscient
opponent
opulent
patient
penitent
permanent
persistent
pertinent
precedent
prescient
prevalent
proficient
prominent
proponent
prudent
recipient
recurrent
redolent
remittent
repellent
resilient
resplendent
respondent
salient
sapient
sentient
solvent
student
subservient
sufficient
transcendent
transient
transparent
turbulent
violent
virulent
Quiz

1. How are both “-ant” and “-ent” usually pronounced?





2. Which of the following consonant clusters will be always followed by “-ant”?





3. Verbs with which of the following endings will take the “-ent” suffix?





4. Which of the following verbs takes the “-ant” suffix to form a noun?





5. Which of the following words has an acceptable variant spelling of “-ent”?





6. Which of the following words cannot be spelled with “-ant” instead of “-ent”?





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