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(Tried to search to see if this question had already been asked, but could not find it amongst the many questions concerning pronoun declension and objects and subjects as parts of speech.)

What, exactly, is the difference between the following two sentences? Are they both correct -- or is one considered more correct in certain contexts or constructions?

  1. Jim's wailing child was the subject of much scrutiny.

  2. Jim's wailing child was the object of much scrutiny.

Each of these usages is ubiquitous, and it's not uncommon to see both within the span of a few sentences. (For example, Google estimates over 60,000 results for "subject of study" "object of study".)

The difficulty seems to be that both words have several senses, and they are somewhat overlapping in this case. As a lover of grammar, I am frustrated that I cannot resolve this question in my mind.

Can anyone help clarify this for me?

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They're both perfectly valid English (though subject is far more common in this exact context), and obviously the meaning is essentially equivalent. Grammatically, a subject usually does something to an object, so by analogy Jim's wailing child can be an object just as much as a subject. – FumbleFingers Jul 12 '12 at 1:30
up vote 3 down vote accepted

They're both grammatically correct and accepted.

For me though, and if you would like to dissect the nuance between them,

Both of them mean a "person to whom thought or action is directed"

But object emphasizes:

"a person seen as a focus for feelings, thought etc."

ex. an object of affection/ contempt

While subject:

"one who experiences or is subjected to something"

ex. the helpless subject of their cruelty/ ridicule

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In OP's exact context (much scrutiny), it's not really possible to rationalise any difference in meaning. Both forms occur, but subject is about 8 times more common than object. I don't see either as more "correct" than the other.

In the closely-related of much debate, that preference equally strong (and has far more examples in Google Books). I suppose a punctilious person might argue that subject implies "topic", and object implies "purpose", but I think that's clutching at straws.

In short, the meaning nets down to the same thing regardless of which word you use - Jim's wailing child can be subjected to scrutiny, in which case he's the subject. Or he can be the object being scrutinised, if you want to look at it that way (and if you want to adopt a minority position).

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The subject of the meeting is what you talk about in the meeting. The object of the meeting (perhaps a better word would be objective) is the expected result of the meeting (such as a marketing strategy, etc.)

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Hi, welcome to English Language & Usage Stack Exchange. Try to tailor your answer more to the question, while what you have written is correct and demonstrates a contextual difference, it doesn't really help answer the original query. – Sam Aug 14 '14 at 21:39

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