The exact phrase from the book of Swan (the context is choosing the words permit or allow) -

The passive structure with it is only possible with permit

Having said that...

It is not allowed to smoke in the kitchen - incorrect
It is not permitted to smoke in the kitchen - correct

I feel absolutely fine for the incorrect sentence.

Your inputs please. Make me understand this.

  • 1
    I couldn't find the reason either. It seems like the pattern *It is not allowed to [verb] ..." should be avoid. (Though "It is not allowed." alone seems to be fine.) Mar 18 '14 at 7:07
  • @DamkerngT. Oh yes...that seems true.
    – Maulik V
    Mar 18 '14 at 7:12

A person can allow something. Don't refer to a person as it.

A thing or action can be permitted. Referring to a thing or action as "it" is correct.

An American might say it either way and would not think it strange if you said it that way too. Many people won't notice your mistake. But in written work you should use correct English otherwise you might get criticized.

  • Americans wouldn't say it that way either.
    – bobpal
    Sep 21 '17 at 17:01
  • I feel like this answer is technically correct but as a native american english speaker I wouldn't have any issue interpreting the first example with the intent of the second - in fact that was how I first read it
    – Daenyth
    Sep 21 '17 at 17:48

The pattern for "allow" is:

(subject) allows (object) to (indirect object)


The owner allows me to use his boat.

In the passive this becomes:

I am allowed to use the boat (by the owner).

Unless I refer to myself as it, I cannot state the above as:

  • It is allowed to use the boat.

Now, permit is used differently. If someone gives permission to do something (which means someone allows something!), that "thing" is then permitted.

So in the above example, use of the boat is permitted.


Weird. They are both sentences, but they mean different things.

  1. "It is not allowed to smoke in the kitchen"= there is something, it, which does not have permission to smoke in the kitchen. (Hard to make context but you can imagine it being said about a smoking monkey or robot in a movie.)

  2. "It is not permitted to smoke in the kitchen"= nobody has permission to smoke in the kitchen. (It could also mean the above)

I have no explanation for this. And as Damkerng says, "it is not allowed" on its own is fine (and takes the standard meaning 2).

  • no downvoting but both the sentences are not convincing (at least to me) :( thanks for the attempt anyway!
    – Maulik V
    Mar 18 '14 at 7:46

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