I'm reading Robert Bringhurst's book The Elements of Typographic Style (4th edition), and encounter this sentence on the top of page 10:

That freedom is denied us if the tradition is concealed or left for dead.

I think only phrases like

  • be denied by somebody

  • deny somebody

are valid, but after searching I find some webpages just use "be denied somebody" for "be denied by somebody", as on the website of The New York Times,

British Memoirist Is Denied U.S. Entry,

and on The Washington Post,

Leading Muslim Scholar Is Denied U.S. Travel Visa.

So, is the "be denied somebody" form widely accepted? Is it a special usage?


For better understanding of the original sentence, this is the poetic context:

Typography thrives as a shared concern -- and there are no paths at all where there are no shared desires and directions. A typographer determined to forge new routes must move, like other solitary travelers, through uninhabited country and against the grain of the land, crossing common thoroughfares in the silence before dawn. The subject of this book is not typographic solitude, but the old, well-traveled roads at the core of the tradition: paths that each of us is free to follow or not, and to enter and leave when we choose -- if only we know the paths are there and have a sense of where they lead. That freedom is denied us if the tradition is concealed or left for dead. Originality is everywhere, but much originality is blocked if the way back to earlier discoveries is cut or overgrown.

2 Answers 2


British Memoirist Is Denied U.S. Entry

is most certainly not short for

British Memoirist Is Denied by U.S. Entry

In the active form:

(somebody) denies (something) (to somebody)

(concealed tradition) denies (freedom) (to us).

In the passive form:

(something) is denied ((to) somebody) (by somebody)
or (somebody) is denied (something) (by somebody).

(Freedom) is denied ((to) us) (by concealed traditions).
(We) are denied (freedom) (by concealed traditions).

(British Memoirist) Is Denied (U.S. Entry) (by U.S. officials).

  • Thanks oerkelens, now it looks grammatical. But it seems "Freedom is denied to us by concealed traditions" doesn't make sense in the context ... should it be "by the sense mentioned in the previous sentence"?
    – Stan
    Mar 5, 2014 at 10:50
  • 1
    @Stan - yes, I paraphrased the if clause of your example, but in reality, the by part is omitted in your example because it should be clear from the context :)
    – oerkelens
    Mar 5, 2014 at 12:08

I cannot say much about the example you have posted, but I can say that be denied is perfectly normal. The one on the New York Times seems to be in wide use and doesn't seem unidiomatic at all. It's the passive form though. It means the person's visa was rejected and he was not permitted to enter the US.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.