Before I get rolling here, I wish to thank Deborah Bancroft for suggesting this particular pair of problematic phrases. I welcome suggestions from you, readers, so please don’t hesitate to leave a note here via the Submissions form or to contact me by either Gmail or through my G+ profile. (I am also on the Book of Face, but am much less active there. It could be quite a while before I would find your message to me.)
Now. Where was I? Oh, yes. “Subjected to” and “subject to” are the subjects of this post. They do not necessarily mean the same thing. Except when they do. And yes, the one I used in the title is incorrect. Did you get that answer right? Did you know there was a quiz? There’s almost always a quiz . . .
The key here isn’t even the spelling. It’s the pronunciation. The meaning depends on the pronunciation of “subject” — subJECT means one thing, SUBject means another.
“Subject (sub – JECT) to” is an idiomatic expression meaning “to cause someone/something to experience something” (thank you to the Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms for that definition). This phrase may use “subject, subjected,” or “subjecting” and be correct. The accent is always on the second syllable for this particular meaning.
“As a teacher, I subjected my students to regular doses of Shakespearean language in everyday speech.”
“The auditor is subjecting all the ledgers to close scrutiny because of a discrepancy in the Entertainment entries for the month of May, 2011.”
“Be careful, or I’ll subject you to Coen Brothers movies for the rest of the weekend.” (For the record, I’m a huge Coen Brothers fan. Deal with it.)
“Subject (SUB-ject) to” indicates that one thing needs to happen before another will be allowed.
“Students’ attendance at the film night is subject to parental approval as indicated by returning a signed permission form.” [Unless the parental approval form is returned, the students cannot attend the movie.]
“The prisoner may be allowed more time in the yard. However, this is subject to her adherence to rules regarding conduct in the common areas within the block.” [If she doesn’t behave indoors, she won’t be allowed more time outside.]
“The vegan option for our feast menu is entirely subject to us being able to find the proper ingredients in time.” [If we can’t find the right kind of tempeh or TVP, all bets for a vegan dish are off.]
And this post’s title? Rightly it should be “Subject to your approval.” I’m not causing the post to experience anything. Rather, I am writing it and and hoping that you will approve. So, subject (SUB-ject) to your approval, I might find encouraging comments on this post in a day or so.
On the other hand, I could be subjected (sub-JECT-ed) to your disapproval, indicated either by utter silence or by nasty notes left under my door. Or here. Or at G+. I’ll be wary, in any case.