I have a question about the sentence "The evolution of a process admits the following description". I checked then the phrase "admits the following description" in Ngram Viewer and found no occurrence. Neither did I found for "allows the following description". Is there something wrong with them? In case it is, what are appropriate substitutions?

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    Don't expect Ngrams to find occurrences of all grammatical phrases; the graph flatlines if there are two few of them to make a good chart of the fluctuations in frequency over time. There are a number of Google hits for both these phrases, and I see nothing wrong with either of them. Jun 24, 2014 at 14:22
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    The construction of admit with a situational subject and a descriptional object is just one (fairly formal) way to provide a description of a situation. Quite often there are several possible descriptions available, and one finds phrases like this admits (of) several explanations/descriptions: ... Jun 24, 2014 at 14:24
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    @John: I was just about to comment that I personally would probably include of in most instances of this construction - perhaps precisely because it's a relatively formal/uncommon usage for most contexts (the preposition makes it easier to recognise as something of a "stock phrase" only loosely related to the more common admit = confess sense). Jun 24, 2014 at 14:32
  • @FumbleFingers The definitions for admit that have the meaning here ("allow the possibility of") all seem to be intransitive. That would seem to therefore require the "of" or a similar prepositional phrase to specify what they allow...or am I reading too much into the intransitiveness?
    – JeffSahol
    Jun 24, 2014 at 14:55
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    But really, why would one want to write that instead of, "the evolution of a process can be described as follows..."?
    – Jim
    Jun 24, 2014 at 15:55

1 Answer 1


There is nothing wrong with that phrasing. I agree with John Lawler's comment that it is formal, or possibly stilted speech, but still correct. I would suspect that the usage might flow out of trying to passive tense.

Substitutions I might use:

  • (can be | is) described as follows
  • fits this description
  • may be defined as (though a definition is admittedly stronger than a description)
  • has been defined as (followed by citations, if the work is not original)

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