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Is it correct to say "I allowed my son go to the movies" instead of "I allowed my son to go to the movies"?

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    In short, no. :) Oct 7, 2013 at 10:25
  • From Google: "I allowed my son to go to the movies": About 6,630,000,000 results (0.68 seconds) "I allowed my son go to the movies": No results found. You could also compare "allowed my son to go" with "allowed my son go" on an Ngram. But you should be doing this yourself - this site is not intended to replace a bit of easy work by the enquirer. Oct 7, 2013 at 10:29
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    Bare infinitival clauses are used with modals and verbs of perception, and not with many other ones. There's a brief coverage of it here. Now, why that is so, I am not really sure. Would love to know.
    – Talia Ford
    Oct 7, 2013 at 10:42
  • There are almost certainly reasons, probably lost in the mists of time, so that the term 'idiosyncratic' is applicable nowadays. 'Let' of course perversely takes a bare infinitive: "I let my son go to the movies" not "I let my son to go to the movies". 'Help' and base forms of 'come', 'go' can be used with catenating base forms. The semi-modal 'dare' takes base forms in some but not all reasonably-to-be-expected constructions. Oct 7, 2013 at 11:17
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    @Edwin: I let/saw/heard/etc. my son go... I don't know why some verbs accept a "bare infinitive" in such contexts, but it's probably fair to say most don't. Off-hand, help is the only one I can think of where it seems to be just a stylistic choice whether to include the "infinitive marker" to or not. Oct 7, 2013 at 14:55

2 Answers 2

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As a rule of thumb, if a verb allows an object infinitive complement without to,
then it's very likely to be a short verb of Germanic origin.
(Basically, these are the ones that have been around for long enough to get their edges worn off)

E.g, let, make, have, go, come, see, hear, watch

A verb like allow, which comes from French, is excluded,
even though it means the same thing as let.
So allow requires the infinitive complementizer to
with an infinitive complement, while let does not even allow it.

  • He allowed me to inspect the seal.
  • *He allowed me inspect the seal.
    but
  • *He let me to inspect the seal.
  • He let me inspect the seal.

*An asterisk * before an example sentence indicates that the sentence is ungrammatical.

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    Great answer. I am so glad I grew up speaking English - I would never be able to memorize grammar that is so unpredictable.
    – fred2
    Oct 7, 2013 at 21:01
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    You already did, painlessly, just by having fun. That's what real grammar does for you. But languages are not designed to be learned easily by outsiders; on the contrary, usually. Unless multilingualism is the norm, as it is in many culture areas (e.g, highland New Guinea, pre-1492 N.America). But in those cases, where everybody already knows half a dozen languages, picking up a new one is much less of a problem, because you get the hang after a while, especially in a Sprachbund. It makes one very aware of language; much like studying linguistics. Dec 27, 2013 at 16:24
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The origin is from Old French alouer ("to grant"). It is here twice transitive for the recipient and the thing, but "to go to ..." is considered as a whole, and you can't suppress the first to.

It is still very common in French but written allouer: Une pension est allouée aux retraités. ("A benefit is granted to retired people.")

The same word was used with the meaning "approve of."

It is still very common in French but became louer: Il loue ces succès. ("He praises these achievements.")

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