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Are any of these verb phrases grammatical?

  • allows the user of modeling and resolving
  • allows the user to model and resolve

Which version of the following sentence is correct/better?

  • In particular, it allows to acquire a signal using a sample rate significantly lower than the one dictated by the Nyquist criterion.
  • In particular, it allows acquiring a signal using a sample rate significantly lower than the one dictated by the Nyquist criterion.

I searched Google Scholar for "allows to acquire" and "allows acquiring", and it seems people use both more or less with the same frequency.

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You will find information about the usage of the verb allow in the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. –  Irene Mar 6 '12 at 17:57
The second is grammatical, the first is not. Allow takes an infinitive complement, not a gerund. –  John Lawler Mar 6 '12 at 18:11
I agree. A list is not the way to approach this, and this list is not categorized by constituents. –  John Lawler Jan 28 '13 at 16:39

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The verb allow can be used in three different syntactic constructions indicating what is allowed. Here are the three constructions with examples from the Corpus of Contemporary American English:

(a) with a gerund complement indicating what is allowed: allow [gerund phrase]

the president last month unveiled plans to allow [drilling in Atlantic waters from Virginia to mid-Florida]

Sets up Web portals that standardize policies and allow [purchasing across state lines]

Note that in this construct, the verb does not include an object indicating the entity which is being allowed, nor is the gerund complement introduced with of, as in the first example from the question. This would be grammatical, though:

Allows modeling and resolving

(b) with just a noun phrase object indicating what is allowed: allow [noun phrase]

and are working with the school administrators to allow [use of personal devices in our schools].

The learning commons has extended its hours of operation to allow [more access to its physical space].

(c) with a noun phrase object (indicating the patient of the allowing) and an infinitive complement (indicating what is allowed): allow [noun phrase] [infinitive phrase]

Note that the only construct showing both what is allowed and the recipient of the allowance is (c).

we're not going to allow [them] [to disrupt this debate and take the focus off the real issue here].

Certainly parents who allow [their children] [to consume violent entertainment products] do share some of the responsibility.

These tools and resources allow [you] [to connect, communicate, collaborate, and create].

Note that the recipient of the allowance isn't always a person or person-like entity:

Only nine states allow [life-sustaining treatment] [to be withheld from patients in a persistent vegetative state].

Note also that this constructions requires both a direct object and an infinitive complement. The verb allow cannot be used with just an infinitive complement; that is, constructions like "allow to [verb]" are ungrammatical. The following examples which I found via Google are clearly written by non-native speakers and are not grammatical:

* What smartphone allows to connect my computer to it for surfing ?

* Image drag and drop allows to create executable files

* Will java allow to use functional interfaces as methods?

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I don't like the sound of 'allows acquiring' - I'd want allows (or perhaps enables here) the acquisition of. However, allows fishing and, as you say, allows purchasing across state lines, are fine. Probably, this is connected with the different senses of allow - grant permission and make possible. –  Edwin Ashworth Jan 28 '13 at 23:36

Only the second is correct as written.

However, "allows us to acquire", "allows one to acquire", "allows the system to acquire" and so on are all also valid.

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Thanks. Can you explain me why? How is "allows the system to acquire" different than "allows it to acquire"? In my mind "it" just replaces "the system". –  Alejandro Jan 28 '13 at 16:04
You don't have "allows it to acquire" in the above, you have "allows to acquire". "It allows it to acquire" is valid, as long as both uses of it refer to the same thing. (If there's a different thing referred to by each it then it's syntactically valid, but likely to cause confusion). –  Jon Hanna Jan 28 '13 at 16:06
You're right! Thanks again. So in general "allows <noun/pronoun> to acquire" is correct? –  Alejandro Jan 28 '13 at 16:14
Yes. "[Noun/pronoun/gerund1] allows [noun/pronoun2] to acquire" means the first thing allows the second thing to acquire something. It's worth avoiding two its if those are different things, to avoid confusion. –  Jon Hanna Jan 28 '13 at 16:24
"Allows acquiring" is correct, but it sounds awkward to me. –  MrTheWalrus Jan 28 '13 at 18:15

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