I have the following sentence:

(...) these dates are subject to change.

Should that, instead, read:

(...) these dates may be subject to change.

Are only one of these usages correct? I want it to be interpreted to mean that the dates may change. (but they may not necessarily change)

My guess is that we're working with the following definition of subject (from dictionary.com):

19: (Adjective) open or exposed (usually followed by to): subject to ridicule.

I think that would make the first quote valid. But how about the second?


Let's start here.

Subject: Likely or prone to be affected by

So, let's see that phrase with the definition instead of the word.

These dates may be prone to changing.

So this means that there is uncertainty as to whether or not the dates could change.

However, the phrase

These dates are subject to change.

Indicates that you know the dates could change, and that they might.

  • Yeah, that's what I was thinking. – Adam May 9 '11 at 19:06
  • I think that's being a bit too literal. It's true you can logically define a difference from the writer's point of view between not knowing whether the dates are capable of being changed at all, and not knowing whether they will in fact be changed even though you know that's a possibility. But this makes no difference to the reader, who's only concerned with the fact that there is some uncertainty. In practice, adding may be is a device for implying (truthfully or otherwise) that change is less likely. Just as will be implies more likelihood. – FumbleFingers May 11 '11 at 0:49
  • @FumbleFingers I considered exactly that, and you may be right, but I asked a few people near me and they seemed to think that adding the may be was redundant. However, I think you're point has plenty of merit. – MikeVaughan May 11 '11 at 12:10
  • I agree that may be, will be, etc., are to all intents and purposes redundant in this context. As is and purposes (and probably to all intents) in that sentence. Do such devices convey any meaning at all? Are they 'just' euphemisms, and does that classification itself imply meaninglessness? I really don't know. – FumbleFingers May 11 '11 at 14:46

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