Will the meaning of this sentence change if I remove "to" in the second sentence?

He wanted to go to the park by himself. But I didn't allow him to.

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  • 2
    Ending a sentence with "to" is something up with which I shall not put. – Ste May 19 '16 at 14:50
  • 4
    No, there would be no change in meaning. Whether it's a subordinator or an aux verb, the rest of the VP is ellipted. It's a free choice, really. – BillJ May 19 '16 at 15:09
  • 1
    No, it doesn't change the meaning. In fact, it would be more formally correct either to omit the "to" or to append "do so." In some places, you might also see "allow him to do" with, again, the same meaning. I've most often heard the last from British speakers. – PellMel May 19 '16 at 15:10
  • @Ste Never use a preposition to end a sentence with. 😉 – Jivan Scarano May 27 '16 at 10:52

No, it’s not always necessary. Here’s why: first of all, your example should be one sentence, not two—there should be a comma between 'himself' and 'but'.

Now the sentence reads:

“He wanted to go to the park by himself, but I didn’t allow him to.”

If you’ll notice, the second part of the sentence is not a complete thought—“I didn’t allow him to” what? That makes it also an incomplete sentence, but it’s okay—as long as you’re using the sentence in a casual way, as apposed to, say, writing a formal letter—because one can still understand what you’re trying to express.

Now then, if you had written:

“He wanted to go to the park by himself, but I wouldn’t allow him.”

People would still understand exactly what you meant. So, in a case where you’ve written an incomplete sentence in the first place, yet people can still understand what you wish to express, it doesn’t really matter where you end the sentence—in this case, you can leave off the final “to” because, again, people will still understand what you mean.

  • Welcome to EEL SE! Big blocks of text can be quite hard to read, please try and make sure your posts are formatted in future to help people read them and enable you to get more positive votes! – Bee Aug 14 at 9:59

"But I didn't allow him" is not a complete sentence in the way that "But I didn't allow him to" is, and I can't believe that two comments on your question have suggested that it would be acceptable. Maybe strictly there is no change in meaning between the two, but where there is a change is in that one of them (-- with the 'to') sounds like a perfectly natural example of English, and the other sounds to my ear almost like a stereotypical mistake that a non-native speaker might make.

The natural way to phrase it without ending your sentence with 'to' would be:

"He wanted to go to the park by himself. But I didn't let him".

  • Interestingly enough, "didn't allow it" sounds more natural than "didn't allow him" to this speaker of Northeastern US English. – stangdon May 26 '16 at 14:22
  • Yes, for me too. I found it hard to express in what way "didn't allow him" feels incomplete to me; "didn't allow it" closes off the phrase in the way that "didn't allow him to" does, and "didn't allow him" doesn't, for me. I feel there remains something un- or under-specified about "didn't allow him"; like, didn't allow him what? Out of interest, do you think "didn't allow him" sounds correct? (or, to refer directly to the question and the answering thereof, do you think the "to" is necessary if you are saying "didn't allow him"?) – Jude N. May 26 '16 at 18:48
  • I think that when speaking informally, "I didn't allow him" might be ok for me occasionally in casual speech (BE speaker), but I agree with you that it definitely feels a bit wonky. In contrast "I didn't allow him to" sounds impeccable. Are you a British English speaker by any chance? – Araucaria May 27 '16 at 1:47
  • "didn't allow him" sounds a little strange and incomplete, while "didn't allow him to" sounds better. I think this is because allow is usually used with the action that you're allowing or not, and not the person being allowed or not. For example "fishing is not allowed" and "you are not allowed to fish" sound fine, but "you are not allowed" has the same structure as "fishing is not allowed", which may be why it sounds wrong if you use it to mean "you are not allowed (to fish)". – stangdon May 27 '16 at 14:33
  • @Araucaria Yes I am. To stangdon: I think you've nailed it there. Really makes sense to me now why it felt odd. – Jude N. May 27 '16 at 14:38

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