As my opinion, "no smoking is allowed" must be correct , because it's "passive voice" . Then I saw a title on 9gag.com that was "NO penguins allowed". So what grammar point is here?

  • 3
    The space on signs is often limited, so the text is abridged to the point of being an ungrammatical sequence of keywords.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 15:52

3 Answers 3


A complete sentence would be "Penguins are not allowed" or its variation "No penguins are allowed".

However, on signs you can often find abbreviated sentences in which the verb is omitted (and often "be" can be implied). Common examples are "(there is) no entrance", "pedestrian crossing (is ahead)", "road (is) blocked".

A sign saying "no penguins" would be unusual (and possibly funny) due to its content, but its syntax is common.

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    The context is important. A "No Penguins" sign in the window of a pet shop might mean "sorry, we don't have any penguins for sale today," not "penguins are not permitted to enter this shop".
    – alephzero
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 23:15
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    If a pet shop regularly has penguins for sale, it's a pretty special pet shop indeed. But yes, a "no doughnuts" sign on the door of a doughnut shop would indicate that they have run out of doughnuts, while a "no credit cards" sign would indicate that they don't take credit cards, not that credit cards are banned from the store. Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 0:25
  • @ZachLipton And indeed, also not that their supply of credit cards has been exhausted. :) Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 22:33

Both "No smoking is allowed" and "No smoking allowed" are incorrect if the implied meaning is "Smoking is not allowed" Both of these mean Not Smoking is permitted, or smoking is not compulsory.


No Smoking Allowed OR No Smoking is Allowed are BOTH wrong.

The sign should read: No Smoking or Smoking is not Permitted.

If "NO" Smoking is Allowed, what about smoking? The grammar is wrong (similar to a Double-Negative).

  • And what's wrong with double negatives or double positives (like "yeah, right")? English routinely makes use of those, and routinely uses "no X allowed" to mean "There is no X that is allowed". Prescriptivism: not even once. Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 23:40

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