Tim Bowen addresses one of his specialist subjects.

The word subject is most frequently used as a noun, with its meaning ranging from a topic people talk or write about to something taught at school, a term in linguistics, a person or animals used in a medical or scientific test, and a person or thing depicted in a photograph, painting or piece of art. It is also used to refer to a person who lives in a country with a king or queen as head of state, as in ‘He is legally a British subject’.

As a verb, to subject means to make someone experience something unpleasant, as in ‘For years, residents of the area were subjected to taunts and insults from gangs of hooded youths who gathered outside the local convenience store’ or ‘The court was told that the victim has been subjected to years of violent abuse’.

Followed by to, subject can also function as an adjective with three distinct meanings. It can be used to mean ‘likely to experience something or to be affected by something’, as in ‘As a result of the adverse weather conditions, all trains are subject to delay or cancellation until further notice’. It can also be used in a situation where people are required to obey a rule or a law, as in ‘All companies producing products in the medical devices sector are subject to stringent controls’. A third use of subject to is in situations that depend on whether something happens, as in ‘Goods will be despatched within 14 days, subject to availability’ and ‘Johnson’s transfer to Sunderland is subject to a successful medical examination’.