I find this sentence from the online Merriam-Webster dictionary:

everyone's right to dissent … is due the full protection of the Constitution

I'm a bit confused by the structure of the sentence. I think a 'to' after 'due' is missed. If so, the sentence means 'everyone's right to dissent comes from the Constitution'. If not, then what is 'due' here?

I don't understand why there is a noun 'full protection of the Constitution' following 'due' directly. More precisely, what is the grammar for a structure like subject + be + adjective + 'the' + noun?

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    Related: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/46837/…. May 23, 2016 at 15:30
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    If you insert "to", you change the meaning completely. "... is due to the full protection..." is not very idiomatic (British) English, but it means "Everybody has the right to dissent because this right has the full protection..." The sentence as written means "everybody's right to dissent must be given the full protection..." i.e. "the Constitution must not be changed to remove the right to dissent".
    – alephzero
    May 23, 2016 at 21:22
  • @alephzero I guess I need to distinguish between 'due' or 'due to'. So, can I say, 'X is due Y' means ' X is owed Y', e.g., 'He is due 5 dollars' means, 'He is owed 5 dollars, while 'X is due to Y' means 'Y is owed X', e.g., '5 dollars is due to him' means also 'He is owed 5 dollars'? I am not sure if it is appropriate to ask this here. If you want, I can open a new question
    – Hua
    May 24, 2016 at 2:32
  • Yes, those are both correct.
    – alephzero
    May 24, 2016 at 3:02
  • @alephzero Thanks very much for this clarification!
    – Hua
    May 24, 2016 at 3:12

2 Answers 2


The adjective "due" has an extraordinary function which allows "to + verb" to be omitted as it is contextually obvious. For example, another example in the link

My wife is due in three weeks.

could be rephrased to:

My wife is due to give birth in three weeks.


The bill is due at the end of the month.

could be rephrased to:

The bill is due to be paid at the end of the month.

Your example sentence could be rephrased to:

everyone's right to dissent … is due to receive the full protection of the Constitution


everyone's right to dissent … is owed the full protection of the Constitution

The above sentence is in the passive voice whose active voice sentence is:

A country (for example, the US) - subject

owes - verb

everyone's right to dissent - indirect object

the full protection of the Constitution. - direct object

  • @Hua Glad it helped. There is always a justifiable reason when you can omit a certain word or phrase. All those in bold above could be omitted. You need to read more example sentences to understand it further. Good luck.
    – user24743
    May 23, 2016 at 14:39
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    I am sorry, I think this is at best an overcomplication and at worst wrong. "Due"'s original meaning is "owed" (from French into English). To say something is "due" would be to say it is "owed". That meaning remains, although it has expanded to include "excepted at a particular time". In the quoted context it simply means "owed", see Upper_case's answer following. There is no need to resort to an implied verb and no warrant for suggesting it. May 23, 2016 at 22:59
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    I agree with @FrancisDavey. The meaning in this usage is actually "owed," and there is no implied phrase missing.
    – Kevin
    May 23, 2016 at 23:01
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    (btw @FrancisDavey I think you mean "expected at a particular time"; you have about 2 minutes to correct it)
    – Kevin
    May 23, 2016 at 23:02
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    @Kevin - apologies, I missed the chance to correct it, but that is right. "Expected at a particular time". May 24, 2016 at 10:12

"Due" in this case means "owed or owing as a natural right" and is still an adjective. The sentence means that the Constitution should protect everyone's right to dissent. In this usage the right to dissent doesn't come from the Constitution but is more fundamental, and in recognition of this the right to dissent is due (or owed) protection by the Constitution. This is where the example sentence came from, and the attached definition.

  • Yes, I found this sentence here. But why there is a 'the' here? I think 'the' breaks the relationship between 'due' and 'protection of the Constitution'.
    – Hua
    May 23, 2016 at 13:01
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    No, "X is due Y" is the normal structure, meaning that X is owed Y: Everyone is due the full protection of the Constitution. You are due a refund of $50. "due by" doesn't make any sense there. Y is just the thing that you are owed: you are owed protection, or $50, or whatever; you aren't owed by protection or $50 or whatever.
    – stangdon
    May 23, 2016 at 14:01
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    @Hua There are other adjectives that would make the structure easy to understand: He is like/unlike his brother. This question is worth a million dollars. May 23, 2016 at 15:36
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    Hmm, yeah, I was at first thinking it was an adjective. e.g., like "He is happy." But, just to confuse things a bit, I then started to wonder if "due" is a verb. e.g., like "he is jumping". (Jumping what? Jumping the gun.) In effect, "due" would almost be a synonym for "owed" (but "owed" would imply that it hasn't been supplied yet).
    – TOOGAM
    May 23, 2016 at 23:57
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    The linked ELL answer itself links to a discussion of the fact that a very small number of English adjectives take noun phrases as complements. "Due" is one such. May 24, 2016 at 10:14

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