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pending and impending - the difference

The Quick Answer
Pending means awaiting an outcome (e.g., a decision, a settlement, a conclusion, or a confirmation).

Impending means imminent or about to happen. It often carries a negative connotation.

Pending and Impending

Pending and impending are close in meaning. Most Thesauruses will offer one as a synonym for the other, but they're not the same. Whilst confusing these words does not constitute a grammatical howler, you might portray yourself as a muddled thinker if you use the wrong one.

Pending

The adjective pending means awaiting an outcome (e.g., a decision, a settlement, a conclusion, or a confirmation). For example:
  • There are four pending issues.
  • The test results are pending.
  • This business is pending.
  • Good luck with the pending litigation.
Pending can also be used as a preposition:
  • He was released on bail pending an appeal.
  • Her trial is suspended pending further evidence.

Impending

The adjective impending means imminent or about to happen. It often carries a negative connotation (i.e., the imminent event will be bad). For example:
  • They waited for the impending storm.
  • Their impending demise ought to have been avoided.
  • The battle is impending.
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