“Allow” vs “Permit” vs “Let” vs “Enable”

These four verbs are all similar, but have different shades of meaning and use.

Allow and permit can be followed by an object, and optionally, a verb or another object:

Until recently, the club would not allow women to enter.

Until recently, the club would not permit women to enter.

Let needs a different construction; the object is followed by an infinitive without to:

Until recently, the club would not let women enter.

Please let me know urgently.

Note the use of allow to politely introduce something you want to say:

Allow me to point out that…

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is…

If you allow for problems, extra expenses etc. you include extra time or money to be able to deal with them:

If you are self-employed, do not forget to allow for tax and national insurance.

To enable means ‘to make something possible’; Allow also has this meaning as in:

During the 19th Century road and rail transport allowed/enabled commerce to expand.

Enable is often preferable if there is no idea of ‘permission’:

A rights issue enabled the company to raise extra capital.

A word processor enables a secretary to type faster than on a typewriter.

Note that these verbs must be followed by a personal object before an infinitive. We cannot say:

X Our round-the-clock service enables/permits/allows to satisfy demand.

The correct version is:

Our round-the-clock service enables/permits/allows us to satisfy demand.

Contributed by Workplace English Training E-Platform