2

Is it appropriate to say “I wasn’t allowed?” I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it said before to me, but instinctively I want to say “I wasn’t allowed to.” We usually say that “I wasn’t allowed to ______,” but what if we omit the blank? Would the “to” still be necessary after “allowed”?

  • The simple answer is yes, both are fine and common constructions. I disagree with the two current answers that anything in particular is implied or expected by one version or the other. It's probably just dialectal. – Matthew Read Sep 18 '16 at 21:40
2

This is a matter of style. If there is a question, e.g. 'Did you drink beer?' - 'No, I wasn't allowed to.' you refer to the question again without using the word beer again, which would sound strange in a conversation. If you tell something, e.g. 'I wanted to drink beer, but I wasn't allowed to.' you don't repeat the word beer either. I think the 'to' stresses the thing that you wasn't allowed to do. If you don't use it you don't seem to care whether you are allowed or not. In that case you feel like 'I wasn't allowed - so what? I didn't even want to do it.'

  • 1
    "'Did you drink beer?' - 'No, I wasn't allowed to.'" would absolutely not sound strange in conversation. In fact, I would argue that responding "No, I was not allowed to drink beer" would sound either like you're a robot or that you're being condescending, depending on your tone. The answer does not need to repeat the information from the question. What if they simply didn't drink it for no particular reason? Wouldn't a "No" be sufficient, or do they need to spell it out as "No, I did not drink beer"? – Matthew Read Sep 18 '16 at 21:47
  • What you say with sounding like a robot is what I mean. Sorry, came across wrong. I would say 'No, I did not drink beer' if someone else would judge me for drinking beer - in the suitable tone, of course. – Harmless Psycho Sep 19 '16 at 4:23
2

I wouldn't expect to see “I wasn’t allowed?” without some mention of what wasn't allowed.

Did you go to the party?
No, I wasn't allowed to (go).

In this example, go can be omitted if it is known in context. But without to it is unclear what allow refers to. I would not say it is wrong, but it sounds cut off at best (even if you omit to it seems like something should be there).

However you can make this passive:

Did you go to the party?
No, it wasn't allowed.

Here it refers back to going to the party.

  • "But without to it is unclear what allow refers to." Nonsense. The response is clearly a response regardless. If they were arbitrarily referring to something else that wasn't allowed, then the presence or absence of "to" makes no difference. "I wasn't allowed (a kite)" and "I wasn't allowed to (fly a kite)", for example, are both complete non sequiturs given a question about a kite-free party. – Matthew Read Sep 18 '16 at 21:45
  • @MatthewRead As I said "I would not say it is wrong", but if you just said " "I wasn't allowed." I would have the distinct impression that something should follow, based on usage I am familiar with. – user3169 Sep 18 '16 at 22:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.