This is from the BBC about heavy rains Metro stations were flooded

Several stations were forced to close.

I thought "to be forced to do something" can be used for people. It makes sense because there is use of some coersion, a force or a strong condition. For instance "She was forced to leave."

But in this sentence, it seems that "The stations were forced to close" which sounded to me a rare usage, because I would have said "The stations had to be closed." I would have never thought to use "to be forced to do something" in place of "have to."

But then I thought maybe "to be forced to do something" might have same meaning as "have to do something". For instance "The dirty house had to be cleaned before we moved in." might have the same meaning as "The dirty house was forced to be cleaned before we moved in."

Does that also sound idiomatic if we used it that way?

  • 2
    An organisation or business can be 'forced to' do something just as well as a person - it's a more emphatic way of saying 'they had to close'. In your example, it would be more idiomatic to say 'We were forced to have the house cleaned before we moved in' because a house isn't an organisation. Dec 17, 2022 at 10:03
  • @KateBunting, thanks for the comment. Then these 2 sentences would have the same meaning, wouldn't they? 1-'We were forced to have the house cleaned before we moved in. 2-We had to have the house cleaned before we moved in.
    – yunus
    Dec 17, 2022 at 10:16
  • 2
    Yes - as I said, be forced to is more emphatic - it was absolutely necessary. Dec 17, 2022 at 10:24

2 Answers 2


The word "force" can apply to inanimate objects.

"The gate was forced closed."

However a station is not as simple as a gate because to close a station implies the complex actions of people, and so it was the organisation or business that was affected. In the sentence, "station" must be interpreted as more than only a building.

Do these two sentences have the same meaning?
'We were forced to have the house cleaned before we moved in.'
'We had to have the house cleaned before we moved in.'

"had to have" is the general, usual, common way of expressing it.

"forced" is stronger, more forceful, and it sounds like somebody ordered you to clean the house. That they forced you to do it. Based on the context, that's a mistake, since nobody is forcing you to do anything. Another interpretation is that the house was unbelievably dirty. In that case, you could never move in without cleaning first, it would be impossible. And so the circumstances 'forced' you to take action. But even then, it's sort of an exaggeration to say you were forced, it doesn't sound quite right.

  • This answer isn't about "object + be forced to X" so it doesn't answer the question
    – gotube
    Dec 17, 2022 at 16:45

You're right that the structure "be forced to X" cannot be applied to inanimate objects, so your final example with the house is semantically incorrect.

The sentence, however, is correct, because the station is being treated not like an inanimate object, but like an organization. The words "the station" are being used metonymically to represent the organization that controls it. So the original sentence actually means that the people who run the station were forced to close the station.

In the example with the house, there is no person or group that can be represented by "the house", so it doesn't make any sense to force a house to do something.

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