Is it correct to say "He is forbidden wine" or "Wine is forbidden him"? Most often these would be expressed as "He is forbidden to drink wine" or "Wine is forbidden to him," but I occasionally see the former usage. Is this considered archaic, or is it still standard (though admittedly stilted)?

  • Searching either sentence only comes up with references to what seem like religious texts or really old books. It definitely sounds archaic to my ear. – Yee-Lum Dec 21 '15 at 23:34
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    @Yee-Lum - Maybe because my example is kind of outdated. How about something like, "As a diabetic, he was permitted just 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal?" – user152375 Dec 21 '15 at 23:45
  • That sounds fine. (This is all based on 'sound' and not actual sources or anything.) But, would you say "He was permitted carbohydrates" to describe someone who is just generally allowed to eat carbs? Does having a modifier in between negate the 'archaic-ness' of it? For example, I wouldn't find it that weird to hear "He is forbidden any type of wine". – Yee-Lum Dec 21 '15 at 23:58
  • There is nothing wrong with "He is forbidden wine" -- there's an implicit "to have" or "to drink" in there. "Wine is forbidden him" is only a hair less idiomatic, and a hair more likely to twist someone's shorts. – Hot Licks Jan 16 '16 at 23:23

I have heard a similar phrase used in medical settings. He is forbidden food, but never 'food is forbidden him'. Among medical personnel, the term NPO (Nil per os, "nothing by mouth" in Latin) restricts anything oral. I have heard it used as a catch-all when a family's questions start being asked about a patient, like "can I bring him cookies?" He is forbidden food is the response that stops questions about a fruit basket, candy and anything else. The phrase may be stilted but I have heard it, just not in general conversation.


Is it correct to say "He is forbidden wine" or "Wine is forbidden him"?

Yes and no. Literally.

Yes, it is grammatically correct to say "He is forbidden wine", although the usage is somewhat uncommon.

"Wine is forbidden him" is just wrong, wrong, wrong. "Wine is forbidden to him" would be grammatically correct, although the passive voice is discouraged.

  • I was going to comment approvingly about the irony of your last statement, but then I followed the link. :) – user152375 Dec 22 '15 at 3:53
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    I don't agree with your last paragraph. It's true that "prepositionless" constructions such as [something] was forbidden them are much less common than they used to be - but that doesn't even make them "wrong", let alone "wrong, wrong, wrong". As that graph shows, including to has only recently become the more common choice. – FumbleFingers Dec 22 '15 at 13:50

'Forbid' and 'permit' are verbs of prevention and permission respectively and they both figure in the list of causative verbs with the implications that they require an agent to bring about the desired result.

When we speak of direct and indirect objects ( both beings or things) in a transitive verb the action of the verbs on the objects are immediate. But in the causative verbs as above the intended result is through the agency of one object that these verbs prefer. These verbs demonstrate one action happening to another person or thing and are followed by a gerund when there is no presonal object otherwise they take infinitive.

These verbs can easily be used in the passive but treating them as verbs with two objects even in passive restricts the flow of the sentence.

In this sense - wine is forbidden him - does not sound fine. But make the sentence active, it is not that awkward. The reason is that these verbs gain in adjectivity on being made passive and require a preposition to mean the affected.


"He is forbidden wine" is acceptable but it's better to just say it completely, i.e. "He is forbidden to drink wine" or "He is forbidden from drinking wine", to avoid confusion. "Wine is forbidden him" sounds awkward and can be confusing.


As far as I know, it is perfectly okay to follow "forbidden" or "permitted" with a noun, such as, "He has forbidden wine" but not without an indicative.

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    The question is about "He is forbidden wine", not "He has forbidden wine". Please make sure that you take the tour and visit our help center for additional guidance. – user140086 Jan 17 '16 at 4:02

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