“Pending Approval” vs. “Approval Pending” – Difference Explained

Word order in English can be a little bit fluid, which causes some confusion about the best way to express some thoughts. That kind of confusion may come up in trying to understand whether you should say “pending approval” or “approval pending.” This article will explain the differences.

What Is The Difference Between “Pending Approval” And “Approval Pending”?

When we say something is “pending approval,” the approval is the action we’re waiting on. When we say “approval pending,” we’re saying the approval is pending an additional action that may or may not be the approval itself.

pending approval vs approval pending

The switched word order between “pending approval” and “approval pending” has two major impacts:

  1. It changes which word is emphasized
  2. It changes which word is open for further elaboration

In “pending approval” the approval process has emphasis. If you were to put it in a sentence, the approval process is that part that has been left open for further elaboration.

  • The trip is pending approval from leadership.

In “approval pending” the pending action has emphasis. If you were to put it in a sentence, the pending action is the part that has been left open for further elaboration.

  • Leadership may suspend approval pending an additional planning meeting.

Note that “pending approval” can end a sentence, while “approval pending” cannot.

  • (Correct) The trip is pending approval.
  • (Incorrect) Leadership may suspend approval pending.

So when you use “pending approval” in a sentence you can elaborate on the approval process but you don’t have to. When you use “approval pending” in a sentence, “pending” must introduce an additional clause.

What Does “Pending Approval” Mean?

“Approval” is a noun meaning permission or acceptance.

“Pending” can be used as an adjective or a preposition. As an adjective, it describes something that is about to or waiting to happen. As a preposition, it’s used to express that one thing needs to wait until another thing happens.

  • (adj) A deal is pending.
  • (prep) His application was suspended pending investigation of plagiarism.

Notice that while “pending” can end a sentence as an adjective, it can’t end a sentence when used as a preposition.

In “pending approval,” “pending” is functioning as a preposition. So “pending approval” means that whatever is “pending” is specifically waiting on approval from someone or something else.

“Pending approval” can be used on its own or within a sentence.

What Does “Approval Pending” Mean?

In “approval pending,” “pending” is also functioning as a preposition. So “approval pending” means that the approval process is waiting on an additional action to take place before it can move forward.

Like “pending approval,” “approval pending” can be used on its own or within a sentence.

Examples Of How To Use “Pending Approval” In A Sentence

Since “approval” is a noun it’s okay to end a sentence with “pending approval.” It can also be used at the begging and in the middle of a sentence.

  • There is a significant backlog of applications pending approval.
  • Pending approval, the event budget should be around $10,000.
  • Filming is expected to begin in 2023, pending approval from the production company.
  • We have 6,000 applications pending approval and are only managing to review five a day.
  • We’re tentatively holding September 18 for the event, pending approval.

Notice that “pending approval” is typically placed before or after a stated situation. If it comes after the situation, it may or may not elaborate on the approval process.

“Pending approval” can also be used as a standalone phrase. You may see it forms like these:

  • Pending Approval
  • Project Pending Approval
  • Pending Approval: Budget

Note that these are incomplete sentences, but can be useful shorthand in project outlines.

Examples Of How To Use “Approval Pending” In A Sentence

As “pending” is functioning as a preposition and not an adjective here, you can’t end a sentence with “approval pending.” You also can’t start a sentence with “approval pending.”

While “approval pending” can appear near the beginning or end of a sentence, something must always come before it and after it for the sentence to be complete.

  • The committee has the authority to suspend approval pending an investigation.
  • I’ve decided to delay approval pending a committee hearing.
  • The committee is seeking to alter the terms of approval pending a hearing.

Notice that in all of the examples above, some action comes both before and after the phrase “approval pending.”

“Approval pending” can also be used as a standalone phrase. You may see it forms like these:

  • Approval Pending
  • Status: Approval Pending

Again, these aren’t complete sentences but they may be appropriate shorthand in some contexts.

Is “Pending Approval” Or “Approval Pending” Used The Most?

According to Google Ngram Viewer, “pending approval” is a lot more common than “approval pending.”

pending approval vs approval pending historical development

Both phrases were virtually unknown prior to 1880. “Pending approval” saw a significant increase in use during the first half of the 20th century. “Approval pending” saw a huge leap at the start of the 1970s and a sudden decline at the end of that same decade.

While both phrases have steadily declined since the 1990s, “pending approval” remains relatively common. Especially compared to “approval pending.”

Native speakers will recognize both phrases but are more likely to reach for “pending approval” when expressing that something is waiting on approval.

“Pending Approval” And “Approval Pending” – Synonyms

There are several different phrases you can use that have roughly the same meaning as “pending approval” and “approval pending.”

Both phrases can be split down the middle, with additional information placed between “pending” and “approval.”

  • The project timeline is pending the boss’s approval.
  • The approval of the funds is pending further investigation.

Note that when you split up “approval pending,” you can use “pending” as an adjective.

  • The approval is pending.

Here are some additional phrases you could use instead of “pending approval” and “approval pending.”

  • Awaiting approval: We’re awaiting approval from the committee.
  • Awaiting permission: The team is awaiting permission to move forward with the project.
  • Permission pending: The teacher is considering giving permission pending a project timeline from the students.
  • Waiting on the green light: They were eagerly waiting on the green light to start their project.