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Objective vs. Subjective

Objective vs. Subjective – What’s the Difference?

Objective and subjective are two quite commonly used adjectives, with meanings that can easily be confused, even though the two words are antonyms of each other.

  • Subjective is an adjective, meaning based on or influenced by personal feelings or emotions.
  • Objective is an adjective, meaning not based on or influenced personal feelings or emotions, but hard, factual evidence.

The best way to think about the difference between objective and subjective is by looking at the idea of an opinion. An opinion, by its very definition, is subjective, because it is a personal view on a subject which might have other possibilities. If we say an opinion is objective, it technically no longer is an opinion because personal interpretation has been removed. This is a question still debated by philosophers, but let’s simplify it by saying objective has to do with unbiased observations and subjective has to do with biased (personal) evaluations.

Look at these two statements:

  1. Donald Trump won the 2016 US presidential elections.
  2. Donald Trump was lucky to win the 2016 US presidential elections.

The first statement is an objective one. It reflects a fact, with no personal interpretation.

The second statement is a subjective one. Perhaps it is somewhat factual, perhaps not. But because it is a personal interpretation open to debate, it is said to be subjective.

Other examples:

  • Russia is the greatest country on earth. Subjective.
  • Russia is the largest country on earth.
  • The Yankees are the best team in baseball. Subjective.

The Yankees have won the most World Series Championships. Objective.

 


What Does Objective Mean?

When something is described as objective, it means that it is an interpretation not based on any personal feeling or emotions. Objective’s synonyms can be words like impartial or unbiased. For example, a referee in a sports game or a judge in a court would make objective decisions based on the facts before them, not allowing personal feelings to influence those decisions.

When to Use Objective + Original Examples

We use the word objective as an adjective to describe things that are factual and have no personal or emotional interpretation of those facts.

Examples:

  • I would like to ask someone who doesn’t know me for an objective
  • Journalists at the BBC try to be objective, but Brexit is an emotional subject.
  • Can a man be truly objective when it comes to judging his family?

Objective can also take the adverb form, objectively. This is used to describe an action that is not influenced by personal feelings or opinions.

Examples:

  • We hope the members of the jury will look at the facts objectively.

Objectively speaking, I can see no reason to continue your treatment.

 

Objective: Other Definitions

Objective can also be used as a noun. It is completely unrelated to the description above, instead meaning a goal or target.

  • His main objective in life was to become a lawyer.
  • The objective of football is to score more than the opposing team.

Objective is also used in grammar, i.e. the objective case, and as a scientific term referring to lenses in a telescope or microscope.

 

What Does Subjective Mean?

When something is described as subjective, it means that it is an interpretation that has been influenced by personal feelings or emotions. Synonyms for subjective could be words like personal or biased. For example, if you were giving your opinion on a movie or other piece of art, it would be regarded as a subjective interpretation.

When to Use Subjective + Original Examples

We use the word subjective to describe things that have a personal interpretation or when the factual nature of a statement can be debated:

Examples:

  • No matter what you say, doctors’ opinions are always subjective.
  • I feel your analysis on the issue has become subjective, because you know the people involved.
  • Reports on rising crime in America are subjective, with each state interpreting the figure differently.

 Subjective can also take the adverb form, subjectively. This is used to describe an action that is interpreted by feelings and opinions.

Examples:

  • Movie reviews and opinion columns are examples of people writing subjectively.
  • Lawyers are better when they are not involved subjectively with their cases.

Note: Subjective can also be used as a term in grammar, i.e. the subjective case.

 

Tips to Remember the Difference

We can break down objective and subjective as the following:

  • Objective = Unbiased Observation
  • Subjective = Personal Evaluation

There are several tips for remembering the difference between subjective and objective. One way to remember the difference is to concentrate on the o in objective and observation. Another way to remember is by connecting the s in subjective and the word standpoint (meaning viewpoint or opinion). Perhaps the easiest, however, is to think of the s in subjective as relating to self, and the o in objective as relating to other.

 

Summary

It is important to know the difference between the two terms, but the words subjective and objective are not actually used that frequently in English. However, the concepts of subjectivity and objectivity are of huge importance in journalism, science, literature, philosophy and a whole host of other areas. Whether something is subjective or objective can lead to a lot of debate, and a good philosopher could probably convince you that nothing is truly objective.

Yet, away from the worlds of science and philosophy, we should simply remember that subjective is about personal opinions and interpretations, whereas objective is about unbiased, factual observations.

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