This rule allows no exceptions.

This sounds natural to me, but I am told "The rule admits no exceptions" can be an alternative way to express this. However, some say using admits is not correct or natural.

I would like to ask how you feel it.


Indeed, the correct phrase would be-

This rule allows no exceptions.

The usage of admit in place of allow would sound very odd and is possibly incorrect therefore you should refrain from using it, instead stick with allow.

People who believe that admit can be correct are possibly influenced by the quote:

"No rule is so general, which admits not some exception." - Robert Burton

The context in which Robert Burton said is most probably different to what you think are rules and thus should not be mixed up.

  • It sounds slightly old-fashioned to me, but not odd, and it definitely isn't incorrect.
    – Useless
    May 19 '14 at 17:20
  • 1
    @Useless In this context, "admit" is a lot more common followed by "of."
    – Elian
    May 19 '14 at 17:36
  • 3
    It's relatively formal, and some (not me) might say it's dated, but "{This rule} rule admits of no exceptions" is perfectly valid English. So -1 for saying it's "very odd and is possibly incorrect" - the only thing that's even slightly "unusual" is that we nearly always include of in that construction. Citing a definitely archaic excerpt from Robert Burton is not helpful in this context. May 19 '14 at 17:41
  • @Elian - I'd agree it's probably more common, but that's very different to saying the suggested form is possibly incorrect ... which is factually is not.
    – Useless
    May 19 '14 at 17:45
  • Whether its common or not is more of a question regarding regional language usage; as such I find allows to be much more common than admit in that context and the latter is very rarely used in my country.
    – Invoker
    May 19 '14 at 17:49

Per my comments to other answers, the overwhelmingly preferred form is admits of...

This rule admits of no exceptions 1270 hits in Google Books
This rule allows of no exceptions 4 hits
This rule admits no exceptions 8 hits
This rule allows no exceptions 10 hits

Obviously there's no difference in meaning - this is purely a matter of established idiomatic usage.


"Allow" is the more common usage.

Alternately to This rule allows no exceptions, you can also say:

This rule allows of no exceptions.

This rule admits of no exceptions.

allow; admit (often followed by of): to permit something to happen: This rule allows of no exceptions; The evidence allows of only one interpretation.

Sources: Cambridge Dictionary and Random House

  • I have to disagree with that first sentence. According to Google Books, "rule admits of no exceptions" occurs 1270 times in their corpus, but the same search string with allow gets only 4 hits. And lest you say that's because I added the extra preposition of, note that if I remove it, I get just 8 hits for admits, and 10 hits for allows. In short, admits of is by far the most common form. May 19 '14 at 17:48
  • @FumbleFingers "Admit of" is indeed by far the most common form. That said, "rule allows of" is perfectly grammatical and cited in both BrE and AmE dictionaries online.
    – Elian
    May 19 '14 at 18:21
  • @Fumblefingers As an aside, the first sentence is meant by comparison with "admit" alone, not "admit of." Otherwise, I would have used "the most" instead of "the more" common usage. It's a mere direct answer to the OP.
    – Elian
    May 19 '14 at 18:37
  • Go on - I'll bite. Please post links showing "both BrE and AmE dictionaries online" citing "rule allows of" as a typical construction. Without of, both admit and allow are so rare in this exact context I find it hard to believe any dictionaries would go to the trouble of pointing out that such usages are "valid" (which I don't dispute, btw - I'm just saying they're idiomatically not preferred). May 19 '14 at 20:03
  • @FumbleFingers What is CD for you? a load of baloney? :-) dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/allow-of-sth
    – Elian
    May 19 '14 at 20:13

There are two senses of admit which make perfect sense in this phrase, and I'm honestly not sure which is more relevant.

  1. it could be admit - acknowledge the existence of, so we have

    This rule admits (the existence of) no exceptions

    which is to say, this descriptive rule claims no exceptions to the rule exist.

  2. or it could be admit - permit entry to, giving

    This rule admits no exceptions (entry into the subject under discussion)

    which would be a prescriptive rule explicitly disallowing exceptions.

However, they're both entirely valid, if a little old-fashioned

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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