I read an article from Toronto Star today which stated:

TTC workers are subject to alcohol and drug testing.

A later paragraph of the same article repeated it, except it used subjected to instead of subject to.

I have rarely seen the use of subjected to before. Is it legitimate in English as well? Why didn’t the author just keep it consistent by using subject to throughout the article? Does using varieties of forms enrich the expressions within an article?


5 Answers 5


I've always understood them to have somewhat different meaning.

[...] employees are subject to testing [...]

Means that at any time they could be required to be tested.

On the other hand,

[...] employees are subjected to testing [...]

would mean the employees are actually put through the testing.

Quick summary:
Subject to = might happen
Subjected to = did or will happen


Generally, subject to (subject in this case is an adjective) is most commonly used in the following ways:

  1. having a tendency for something

    This road is subject to flooding.

  2. conditional upon

    Your business plan is subject to review.
    The promotion is subject to our terms and conditions.

Subjected to is used to mean "to be made to undergo an unpleasant experience":

Sadly, immigrants are subjected to verbal and emotional abuse in many parts of the country.

Triathletes are subjected to extreme physical demands.

Emperor Penguins are subjected to the severe cold of Antarctic winters.

Reference: http://tumblr.com/Z90tLy4KDe8D

  • 5
    Not necessarily. Yes, "subjected to" is often used in sentences about unpleasant experiences, because it means "caused to experience" – which can mean, basically, "forced to experience". But it can also be said of a pleasant experience. For example, you can have a purely pleasurable experience, such as being subjected to many expressions of thanks in a receiving line. Or, you can walk a fine line – sadomasochism is defined as "sexual perversion characterized by pleasure in being subjected to pain".
    – MetaEd
    Oct 20, 2011 at 22:34
  • 'subjected to' means that an act was actually performed.
  • 'subject to' means that the legal situation allows the act to be performed on them.

So it could be that the article is pointing out that it is allowed for the test to occur, and then later the test actually took place.


I would regard "are subject to testing" as meaning that such testing is a condition of employment and may happen, but "are subjected to testing" as meaning that such testing happens and perhaps when it happens is an imposition.

  • +1 Concise and intuitive explanation! Plus, I had to look up the word "imposition" since I was not aware it's the noun form for "impose" :)
    – Terry Li
    Oct 20, 2011 at 17:25

“To be subjected to” is to be caused to experience the thing. The experience definitely occurs.

“To be subject to” is to be likely to be caused to experience the thing. The experience can occur, but it is not definite.

If you are subject to search, you are at risk of being searched. But if you are subjected to search, you are, in fact, searched.


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