Legal English – Peter’s Pills – Lesson 13 – Subject Matter

Legal English for Notaries - By Federnotizie

Subject Matter


In order for a valid trust to be set up, the property transfer must clearly meet what are known as the three certainties:

  1. The Certainty of Intention;
  2. The Certainty of the Subject Matter; and
  3. The Certainty of the Object.

Let’s look at this example:

Mary (the settlor) sets up a trust in which she clearly gives Theodore (the trustee) the right to hold the entire title of a home in Surrey for the benefit of her daughter Josephine (the beneficiary).

In this example who or what is the subject matter of the trust?

Who or what is the object of the trust?

This may seem like a simple a question, but if you work in the Roman civil law system, or if you are an Italian, French or Spanish mother tongue speaker, you may be surprised to learn that the subject matter of the trust is the home in Surrey, while the object of the trust is the beneficiary, Josephine.

Likewise, we speak about the subject matter of a contract. In a sales agreement, for example, this would be the property which is sold and transferred from one party to another. Similarly, in a donation the subject matter of the donation would be that thing that is being donated.

Thank you very much and see you next time for more Peter’s Pills to improve your Legal English!

See more about Subject Matter here in this Columbia Law Review.

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