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Thread: able vs allowed

  1. #1
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    Question able vs allowed

    Hello,

    Employees may not smoke in this office.

    Are both of the following sentences acceptable equivalents of the above sentence?

    Employees are not allowed to smoke in this office.
    Employees are not able to smoke in this office.


    (I know that "can't" can be used instead of "are not able to".)


    How about the past tense?

    It was forbidden for employees to smoke in this office.

    Employees were not allowed to smoke in that office.
    Employees were not able to smoke in that office.


    Thanks in advance to any native speaker for answering these questions!

    PS - Great forum!

  2. #2
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Default Re: able vs allowed

    Quote Originally Posted by echelon View Post
    Hello,

    Employees may not smoke in this office.

    Are both of the following sentences acceptable equivalents of the above sentence?

    Employees are not allowed to smoke in this office. Yes.
    Employees are not able to smoke in this office. No. The problem with "able to" is that it suggests a physical ability. Anyone is "able to" smoke, if they choose to do so. "May not" is generally accepted to mean a prohibition, nothing to do with ability.


    (I know that "can't" can be used instead of "are not able to".)


    How about the past tense?

    It was forbidden for employees to smoke in this office. Yes.

    Employees were not allowed to smoke in that office. Yes.
    Employees were not able to smoke in that office. No, same reason.


    Thanks in advance to any native speaker for answering these questions!

    PS - Great forum!
    See above.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: able vs allowed

    Hello, and thank you for the answer. However, are you really sure of it?

    The following sentences should have very similar in meaning.

    We cannot smoke here.
    We may not smoke here.


    Right?

    Cannot = to be able to

    So why not?

    Also, another native speaker of British English said that to be able to can be used instead of to be allowed to in these contexts...

  4. #4
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    Default Re: able vs allowed

    Quote Originally Posted by echelon View Post
    Hello, and thank you for the answer. However, are you really sure of it?

    The following sentences should have very similar in meaning.

    We cannot smoke here.
    We may not smoke here.


    Right?

    Cannot = to be able to

    So why not?

    Also, another native speaker of British English said that to be able to can be used instead of to be allowed to in these contexts...
    "Cannot" can mean "not able to" in the right context, but the two terms are not always interchangeable.

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