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I am looking for a word that describes the following type of rule:

Let's say a customer has received a gift card. This gift card has a rule that prevents the customer for shopping anything in the shop, but only specific categories of merchandise. Let's say only books. So the customer may only purchase books and not the other merchandise like CD's, posters, aso.

The shop would then add a "XXX rule" on all gift cards that should be limited for payment on specific categories of merchandise.

Example usage: Customer: "Why am I not allowed to purchase this CD with this gift card?" Cashier: "I am sorry, but there is a (XXX rule) that specifies only books to be bought with this gift card."

I've thought about restriction, but that is, to my knowledge, generally used to describe what to not allow, and the word I am looking for is more to the essence of describing what to only allow

I am not a native english speaker, so my question may contain strange assumptions due to my limited english grammar knowledge.

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    'Shop' in the normal sense is intransitive; one shops for goods. 'Condition' is the normal word for what you call 'a[n] XXX rule'. As in 'terms and conditions'. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 26 '17 at 10:19
  • It is some what weird as gift cards, at least in the USA, are tied to a store and not specific merchandise. There are certainly coupons, discounts, and deals that will target specific products/product categories, but as a whole gift cards are usually used for the entirety of the store for which it is bought. – ggiaquin16 Sep 26 '17 at 17:03
  • @ggiaquin yes you are correct, coupon would be a more valid example – henrik Sep 26 '17 at 17:48
  • @EdwinAshworth: AKA, the fine print. – jxh Sep 26 '17 at 18:05
  • Just to complicate matters further, I have in my wallet as I write a card for a free cup of tea (or equivalent beverage) and a cake at John Lewis. But it is restricted to the dates between 17 October and 23 November! What do you call one of those? – WS2 Sep 26 '17 at 22:18
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"I am sorry, but there is a (XXX rule) that specifies only books to be bought with this gift card."

The correct word is limitation.

Limitation
noun

A limiting rule or circumstance; a restriction.
‘severe limitations on water use’

Restriction would be similarly correct.


I've thought about restriction, but that is, to my knowledge, generally used to describe what to not allow, and the word I am looking for is more to the essence of describing what to only allow.

I agree with you here. Restriction implies a prohibition ("you cannot buy a TV with this coupon"), whereas a limitation implies a selected applicability ("you can only buy books with this coupon").

But this is a subtle difference. Restriction would still be correct to use, but I would indeed favor using limitation for your specific scenario.

  • Good answer. I don't think restriction in this context is a prohibition, I think there is a mixing of deontic and alethic modalities here. Instead a restriction is a condition on the obligation of the counter-party to accept the gift card. If you try to buy a CD with the gift card, it's not that you're prohibited (it isn't `illegal'), but that it's not possible (it is not a recognised social-action). You cannot pay for goods in the UK with euros, because euros do not constitute money; if you do pay with euros, however, you have not broken the law (because it is not prohibited). – Dr. Thomas C. King Sep 26 '17 at 10:36
  • @ThomasKing: I agree with your reasoning. In reality, every limitation is a restriction and vice versa, it all depends on how you look at it. But regardless of such a detailed correctness, we must also observe how a certain word is understood by the listener, if they hear nothing but the word (and are not aware of the deep underlying logic behind it). There's a difference between being semantically correct, and being understood. – Flater Sep 26 '17 at 10:44
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Condition (as mentioned by Edwin Ashworth in a comment) is the best option in my opinion.

Condition
noun

A situation that must exist before something else is possible or permitted.

‘for a member to borrow money, three conditions have to be met’

While Restriction and Limitation are valid in this circumstance, it is true that they are more about "you can't do something" rather than "you CAN do something". Condition is more broad and can apply to essentially anything that can be expressed in the form "In order to do X, you must do Y"; in your case, "In order to use the gift card, you must purchase books". It also works to insert it directly into your provided sentence

I am sorry, but there is a condition that specifies only books to be bought with this gift card.

Also, while it wouldn't be used in this circumstance, there is a related concept called a Whitelist, which very distinctly conveys the idea that "Only these things are allowed and nothing else". It is rarely used in conversation though, and has some additional connotation that would make it not apply to this situation anyway.

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If I understand correctly, your gift card's rule only says what is allowed (although what you describe earlier seems like rules are introduced to state what is not allowed). It's a bit difficult to give you a rule-type, it makes the sentence unwieldy. But you can say it's a right, "you only have the right to use this card for books" (n.b., this is different from a permission).

  • But that requires only to be present in the same sentence. So I guess the word right is not complete by itself – henrik Sep 26 '17 at 17:44
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"I'm sorry, this card is dedicated/reserved for books."

Dedicated Exclusively allocated to or intended for a particular purpose

Reserved kept or set apart or aside for future or special use

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Limitation and Restriction are fine words, but there are even more specific words available.

Consider Stipulation MW Link

:something stipulated; especially :a condition, requirement, or item specified in a legal instrument

This has the added legal implication that would fit nicely with your example.

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