I haven't found any threads on this topic so I decided to create a new one.

Please have a look at the usage of the verb allow in this sentence:

"This report was presented to the external stakeholders during an event, which allowed to establish important communication channels with specific segments of the community".

Is "which allowed to + verb" correct? I have checked some forums but haven't yet come to a conclusion whether "which allowed + verb" or "+ gerund" (which sounded quite awkward to me) is the best option (IF there is one...)


  • Carolina, as a native of the Italian language I'd go with "allowed to establish", there are no doubts!
    – user19148
    Jun 18 '13 at 20:18
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    @Carlo_R.: I can see the contexts of only three instances of which allowed to work in Google Books. Two of them look like the authors are non-native speakers (quite possibly Italian! :), and the other is an "accidental collocation". Jun 18 '13 at 20:28
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    I don't know which search strings you tried, but simply searching for "allow gerund" gets you the thread you were looking for.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jun 18 '13 at 20:49

I think it's not an acceptable construction, but I can see why some writers are drawn to it. They want to avoid using personal pronouns, thinking it's a more "professional/academic" version of...

...which allowed us (or me, etc.) to establish...

Because the word establish is more associated with "formal, business, scientific" contexts, people might be slightly less critical. But if we substitute a more common verb, the written usage figures tell the story...

which allowed me to work (3580 results in Google Books)
which allowed us to work (1160)
which allowed them to work (3640)
which allowed to work (5)

Per my comment to the question, I can only see the context of three of those last five. Two are scientific contexts whose authors have "foreign-looking" names; the third an accidental collocation (with a comma after which, followed by a "parenthetical clause").

  • Allow is a deontic modal, potentially a performative. It can be either bitransitive, with B-Equi from the indirect object (They allowed [me to leave after the ceremony]), or bitransitive, with B-Raising to Object (This allowed [it to flow more rapidly]); in either event, however, there has to be a Noun Phrase between allow and its infinitive complement clause. So the sequence allowed to establish is ungrammatical, no matter what else is there. Jun 18 '13 at 20:52
  • @John: I'm never quite sure how appropriate it is to simply classify some usage as "ungramnmatical". If nothing else, ELU has taught me that some usages have shifted from grammatical to ungramnmatical over decades and centuries. But I do think my point about the motivation for trying to drop the "subject" is relevant. There are actually quite a lot of written instances of which allowed to determine, which is a typical "formal, dry, academic" phrasing likely to arise in the same context the writer is likely to want to use "passive mode", for example. Jun 18 '13 at 21:06
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    You're sure those allowed to determine strings aren't preceded by passive morphology? He was allowed to determine the date of his execution is perfectly grammatical, because it's passive and there needn't be an object between the matrix verb and the infinitive. Jun 18 '13 at 21:15
  • @John: Nah - the string I searched for was "which allowed to determine". When I wrote that last comment I'd just noted that GB claimed there were 1920 instances, but I've just scrolled through to find there are actually only 44 (GB massively overestimates some rare invalid phrasings that are similar to common valid ones). But practically all those 44 seem to be "scientific report" contexts. I think either none of the authors are using their native tongue, or some feel an urge to ungrammatically drop the "agent" noun/pronoun because it clashes with their idea of formal writing. Jun 18 '13 at 21:35
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    FF I agree with you that it's "not an acceptable construction" and with @JohnLawler that it's "ungrammatical". I hadn't realised until you suggested it that this construction may be intended to avoid using a personal pronoun. There are, of course, better ways of achieving that, such as which allowed the establishment of ....
    – TrevorD
    Jun 18 '13 at 23:29

No, allowed to VERB is not correct.

Allow may take (in addition to an ordinary noun phrase ) any of these as a complement:

  • A phrase headed by a nominalized verb (e.g., establishment). Its object may be expressed with an of preposition phrase and its subject with either a 's genitive or a by preposition phrase, but a subject is not required:

    ..., which allowed (SUBJECT's) establishment of important communication channels ...
    ..., which allowed establishment (by SUBJECT) of important communication channels ...

  • a non-finite clause headed by a gerund (VERBing). Its object requires no marker and its subject may be expressed with a 's; but again, a subject is not required:

    ..., which allowed (SUBJECT's) establishing important communication channels ...

  • a clause headed by a marked infinitive (to VERB); this requires a subject, which is cast in the objective case:

    ..., which allowed SUBJECT to establish important communication channels ...

These clauses cannot be introduced with the complementizer for, since allow for has a different idiomatic meaning.

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