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Which option fits best in the following question.I cannot see any difference in meaning.

We seldom had the ____________ to get out for an evening in town.

a. opportunity

b. permission

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What difference didn't you see? – user3169 Mar 22 at 19:37
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What's the context? Both can work. A prisoner has neither permission, nor opportunity to go out on the town. A teenager certainly has the opportunity, but perhaps not the permission. Someone else may have permission to go out, but no opportunities to do so. The context would help a lot. – BruceWayne Mar 22 at 20:21
    
@BruceWayne This question was extracted from an exam question book.So there is not any context related to the question. – Mrt Mar 22 at 20:25
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Since the question was extracted from an exam book, it seems that the intent is for you to decide which option makes the sentence grammatically correct, and that the difference in meaning between the two words, while significant, is not relevant to the question. Therefore Azad's answer is the one you want in this case. – silvascientist Mar 23 at 1:29
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@user3169 You say "What difference didn't you see"-- I don't understand how you can ask this-- unless you're making a joke? The OP said ey cannot see any difference, and it doesn't look like that's the result of an edit. – Don Hatch Mar 23 at 12:33
up vote 18 down vote accepted

According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, permission is an uncountable noun. It is not used with 'a', and is not usually used with 'the' unless it is followed by 'of' e.g.,

Permission was granted to televise the ceremony.

Interviews can be taped only with the permission of the interviewee.

So opportunity is the right choice.

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2  
Disagree with the reasoning. Uncountable nouns, while not taking "a", can certainly take "the", if you're referring to a specific set. This is doubly true, as "the permission to" is analogous to "the permission of". – R.M. Mar 23 at 14:24
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@R.M., Azad phrasing seems correct here ("not usually") and is totally applicable for the word permission. LDOCE's examples of usage do not use a "the" before. OP asked a question about an exam textbook, not general usage, so grammatical correctness must be the focus here. – Alexandre Mar 23 at 15:14
    
As Alexandre mentioned the primary focus is on grammar. "The permission" would have to refer to a specific kind/instance of permission, the one that was necessary, without even telling the reader what it was for: I finally got the permission I needed. Interestingly one of the comments is about asking about the context. No context presented leaving the reader in wonder. So here 'permission' is taken as a generic noncount noun which doesn't require any article. It's true while 'opportunity' is a singular count noun and you should use it with an article preceded it. – Yuri Mar 23 at 17:25
    
Plus, as Colin fine pointed out "idiomatically, 'permission' is nearly always used without an article". I would like to add, "esp. in the verb phrase 'have permission to do something'. Google hits can testify to that. – Yuri Mar 23 at 17:26

The meaning is quite different: opportunity implies the time and physical ability - it could also include permission, but that is rather lower on the list of elements that might contribute to it than physical limitations.

But idiomatically, "permission" is nearly always used without an article, where "opportunity" is usually (though not always) used with an article. So "had the permission" sounds very strange.

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