Allow – Permit – Let – Enable

Hi dear English students. You might have wondered which word to use and you weren’t sure. Are the words allow, permit, let and enable synonymous and what is the difference between them? That’s the topic of today’s blog entry. Well, we can say that allow, permit and let are synonymous words and they mean ‘to give permission‘. However, enable is different; it means to make it possible for someone to do something and it has nothing do to with permission but with ability. Permit is the most formal word of them all and let is the least formal. 

Let’s study these words in a more detailed way.


Meaning: to let someone do something or to let something happen. The structure is allow + person/thing + to-infinitive. You will often find allow in passive sentences.

For example:

  • They don’t allow students to smoke in this school.
  • I’ve got great news! We are going to be allowed to use a dictionary during the exam. 
  • The prisoner is allowed to have two visitors a week.
  • It is not very wise to spend more than your budget allows you to.
  • Allow your dish to cool, then cut vegetables into bite-sized pieces and place everything in a large serving bowl.
  • Allow me to introduce me and my family.


Meaning: it means similar as allow – to give permission to someone to do something (to authorise them) or let/allow something to happen. It is more formal than allow. The structure is: permit + person/thing + to-infinitive. This verb can be often seen in passive sentences.

For example:

  • After they divorced, Mr Smith was permitted to see his children on Saturdays.
  • The visitors are not permitted to touch the exhibits in the museum.
  • Anna would never permit herself to gain weight. She’s a ballerina.
  • Ther citizens are not permitted to enter the area where the crime was committed.
  • The Maths teacher didn’t permit Alen to answer the question.
  • I’d live to go hitchhiking with you but I’m not sure my parents will permit it.


Meaning: the verb let is a bit informal and the least formal of the four verbs. We normally use it to say that we allow someone to do something or allow something to happen. We will never see this verb in a passive construction. The structure is: let + person/thing + bare infinitive (infinitive without to).

For example:

  • When we were children our mum would never let us stay up after 10 pm.
  • Would you let me know what percentage of the companies are led by women?
  • Every week starts fresh, so don’t let your past failures affect your future progress!
  • Parents let their children wander the streets quite happily, not knowing what they are up to.
  • Mary never lets her busy timetable prevent her from spending quality time with her family.
  • Don’t let the grass grow under your feet. (saying)


Meaning: to give someone the opportunity or ability to do something. The structure is: enable + person/thing + to-infinitive.

For example:

  • These binoculars enable you to see miles ahead.
  • Social networks enable their users to stay in touch with their friends and family wherever they are.
  • These payment cards enable the customer to obtain cash and access other bank services from an automated teller machine.
  • The land sale provided enough money to enable us not only to buy a site suitable for the new school but also to pay for its construction.
  • The bridge will have in-built lighting which should enable the bridge to be seen from miles around.
  • The vaccine will enable you to be resistant to flu.
Allow - Permit - Let - Enable
Allow – Permit – Let – Enable
Allow - Permit - Let - Enable
Allow – Permit – Let – Enable

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