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To non-native English writers: expunging the solecism "This allows to do

From: Alan Mackenzie
Subject: To non-native English writers: expunging the solecism "This allows to do something."
Date: Sun, 24 Jan 2016 21:06:02 +0000
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.24 (2015-08-30)

Hello, Emacs.

For some time I have been irritated by sentences of the form "This
allows to do something" in our source and documentation.

Such a sentence formation is NOT ENGLISH.  The verb "allow" absolutely
requires a direct object, not an infinitive verb.  This direct object
can be one of various things:

(i) The person or other agent being allowed, followed by an infinitive

    "This allows YOU to do something."
    "This allows EMACS to do something."

(ii) The activity being allowed, as a gerund:

    "This allows DOING something."
    "This allows THE DOING OF something."

(iii) The object of the activity being allowed, followed by a passive
  voice infinitive verb:

    "This allows SOMETHING to be done."

Depending on the exact sentence, the best formulation can be any of
these three alternatives.  Nothing about natural languages is simple.

The same considerations also apply to "permit", "enable", and "prevent"
(although the preposition after "prevent" is always "from", never "to").

I have done my best to expunge these solecisms from our source and
documentation files (including NEWS).  PLEASE take care to avoid adding
any new ones!


Alan Mackenzie (Nuremberg, Germany).

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