At the moment I'm a bit baffled. What sentence part is "visitors" in "I'm not allowed visitors"? I would not call it an object or a subject complement as "to be allowed" is no linking verb.

The only idea I have is to say the sentence is elliptic and the full form would be "I'm not allowed to have visitors". Here "visitors" is object of the to-infinitive.

So is it possible to say "visitors" is object of a to-infinitive (to have) that was deleted?

  • In my opinion: Yes to your last question. That is precisely how I would describe it. Let's see what others say. – chasly from UK Sep 18 '15 at 21:50
  • Ellipsis is over-used as an explanation. With ellipsis as a valid strategy, we can just say that any ungrammatical, comprehensible sentence is just an "ellipsis" of the grammatical version. In reality, your grammar is probably just insufficient to describe the nuances of human expression. – Brandin Sep 19 '15 at 10:16
  • I'm waiting for your grammar explanation, @Brandin – rogermue Sep 19 '15 at 10:51

Yes, I think you are on the right lines.

But the way I would describe it is to say that visitors is part of an object clause - which is to have visitors.

The verb allowed attracts similar object clauses with all kinds of things, the infinitive part to have being elided in all cases. E.g. I'm not allowed sugar/days off work/reading material etc.

Of course allowed takes many other infinitives as well, but which are not necessarily elided e.g. I'm not allowed to see my friends. Equally it works in the positive I'm allowed to go on outings.

This is the simple explanation, but if you are looking for the Advanced Level one, then see @StoneyB, below.

  • Well, I must say I prefer the simpler explanation. – rogermue Sep 18 '15 at 22:51
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    @rogermue But I would urge you to look at StoneyB, since he is a professional in this area, and I am merely a native speaker. Obviously allowed is being used in the passive sense here. someone allows me. And though to have visitors is an object it is not a direct object. – WS2 Sep 18 '15 at 22:58
  • I'm not by any standard a 'professional' grammarian, just a hack writer coming very late in life to modern grammar. – StoneyB Sep 18 '15 at 23:31
  1. I'm not allowed visitors.

is a passive version of

  1. [Somebody] does not allow me visitors.

In both, visitors is the thematic Patient and syntactic Direct Object. I/me is the thematic Beneficiary in both; in 1. it is cast as the syntactic Subject, and in 2. it is cast as the syntactic Direct Object.


A1. Photography is not allowed.
A2. [Somebody] does not allow photography.

B1. I am given a raise.
B2. [Somebody] gives me a raise.

  • Well, you see visitors as direct object. Somehow my German mind has problems. I can't decide whether I should see "visitors" as a nominative or an accusative. Probably you are right and it is an accusative. But it is a real problem. But to show this I would have to draw parallels to German and to show how English changed a passive from a dative object to a new construction that is only possible in English. – rogermue Sep 18 '15 at 22:16
  • @rogermue I was more familiar with German 50 years ago; but I believe that you cast only accusative objects (Direct Objects) as passive subjects; if you want to 'topicalize' a dative object you just stick it at the front of the sentence Mir sind Besucher verboten, or something of the sort. English casts both Direct and Indirect Objects (and in some cases even the objects of locative prepositional phrases) as passive subjects. – StoneyB Sep 18 '15 at 23:03
  • Let me try to show the problem without using German. An active sentence like "He offered me a job" would logically be in passive "To me was given a job" (no correct English, but correct Latin or German grammar). And here I would say "a job" is clearly a nominative. English changed the sentence construction from "To me was given a job" to "I was given a job", an ungrammatical structure, but simple and easy. But why should "a job" change from nomintive to accusative, only because "to me" was changed to "I"? – rogermue Sep 18 '15 at 23:14
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    @rogermue You're making two steps out of what in English is just one. We don't 'nominativize' the DO and then swap it with the IO; we nominativize one object (either one) and leave the other in its original 'objective' form. – StoneyB Sep 18 '15 at 23:21
  • Though "To me was given +noun" is unusual in English today, Google nGrams has instances for it. books.google.com/ngrams/… – rogermue Sep 18 '15 at 23:30

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