Allow vs. Let

What's the Difference?

Allow and let are both verbs that convey permission or giving someone the freedom to do something. However, there is a subtle difference in their usage. "Allow" is often used in a more formal or authoritative context, where someone in a position of authority grants permission to another person. On the other hand, "let" is more commonly used in everyday conversations and implies a more casual or informal granting of permission. Additionally, "let" can also be used to suggest allowing or enabling something to happen without actively giving permission, whereas "allow" strictly refers to giving permission.


DefinitionGive permission or consentAllow or enable someone to do something
UsageCommonly used in formal contextsCommonly used in informal contexts
SynonymsPermit, authorize, sanctionEnable, permit, allow
OppositeProhibit, forbid, disallowPrevent, hinder, stop
Usage in JavaScriptUsed in the context of CORS (Cross-Origin Resource Sharing)Used to declare variables in JavaScript

Further Detail


When it comes to granting permission or giving consent, two commonly used verbs in the English language are "allow" and "let." While they may seem similar at first glance, there are subtle differences in their usage and meaning. In this article, we will explore the attributes of both "allow" and "let" and examine how they differ in various contexts.

Definition and Usage

Let's start by understanding the basic definitions and usage of these two verbs:

  • Allow: To permit or give permission for something to happen or be done.
  • Let: To give permission or allow someone to do something.

Both verbs involve granting permission, but "allow" is often used in a more general sense, while "let" is commonly used when granting permission to an individual or specific entity.

Usage in Everyday Language

In everyday language, "allow" and "let" are often used interchangeably, but there are instances where one is more appropriate than the other. Let's explore some examples:

1. Giving Permission

When granting permission, both "allow" and "let" can be used. For example:

  • "I allowed my children to stay up late on the weekends."
  • "I let my children stay up late on the weekends."

Both sentences convey the same meaning, but "let" emphasizes the personal involvement of the speaker, while "allow" is more neutral.

2. Prohibitions and Restrictions

When expressing prohibitions or restrictions, "allow" and "let" are not interchangeable. "Allow" is used to indicate that something is permitted, while "let" is used to indicate that something is not allowed. For example:

  • "Smoking is not allowed in this building."
  • "I won't let you smoke in this building."

In the first sentence, "allow" is used to state a general rule, while in the second sentence, "let" is used to express a personal decision to prohibit smoking.

3. Expressing Consent

When expressing consent, "allow" and "let" can be used interchangeably. For example:

  • "She allowed/let me borrow her car for the weekend."
  • "He allowed/let his employees take a longer lunch break."

In both cases, the verbs convey the idea of granting permission or consent.

Formal and Informal Contexts

The choice between "allow" and "let" can also depend on the formality of the context. "Allow" is generally considered more formal, while "let" is often used in informal or conversational settings. For example:

1. Formal Context

"The company policy allows employees to work remotely."

In a formal context, such as a company policy, "allow" is the preferred choice as it sounds more professional and objective.

2. Informal Context

"Sure, I'll let you borrow my bike for the weekend."

In an informal context, such as a conversation between friends, "let" is commonly used as it sounds more casual and friendly.

Idiomatic Expressions

Both "allow" and "let" are used in various idiomatic expressions, adding further nuances to their meanings. Let's explore some examples:

1. Allow

  • "Allow me to introduce myself." (A polite way of introducing oneself)
  • "I can't allow myself to get distracted." (To prevent oneself from being distracted)

2. Let

  • "Let bygones be bygones." (To forget past conflicts and move on)
  • "Let nature take its course." (To allow events to unfold naturally)


While "allow" and "let" share similarities in their meanings, they also have distinct attributes that set them apart. "Allow" is more general and neutral, while "let" emphasizes personal involvement and is often used in informal contexts. Understanding the subtle differences between these two verbs can help us communicate more effectively and accurately convey our intentions when granting permission or giving consent.

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