My mother routinely uses the phrase have to allow as a synonym for "have to say," generally in a context like,

What did she have to allow?

to request that her interlocutor summarize a conversation. Unfortunately, Googling for any occurrence of this set phrase has proven ineffective, because the literal sense of the phrase is so common.

Has anyone ever come across this? She grew up in the Mid-South region around Memphis, Tennessee, USA.

2 Answers 2


Yes, it is an AmE usage:


chiefly Southern US and Midland US

a) to be of the opinion : think,

b) dialect : say, state,

c ) to express an opinion —usually used with as how or that


As noted in the OED:

Between the two primary significations there naturally arose a variety of uses blending them in the general idea of assign with approval, grant, concede a thing claimed or urged, admit a thing offered, permit, etc., etc.


  • Ahh... that's embarrassing that I didn't check M-W or OED. I suppose my intuition was that this was specifically a set phrase, so any dictionary entries would be Googable. Thanks to both who have pointed me to the right place. Dec 14, 2017 at 21:43

In the OED it is listed as sense 6 of allow.

Allow has had a diverse history in English since it emerged from the French alouer in the post-Norman conquest period. Its modern widely used senses involve "to take into account" or "to permit", or sometimes "to acknowledge" - but senses now less used involved things like "to receive with favour".

But sense 6 seems to me what you are looking for. It undoubtedly has its origins in southern England - the Sussex dialect seems its likely provenance - but today is mostly confined to the US "South and Midland" (I assume that covers Tennessee).

I have to admit that though I have lived nearly all my life somewhere in southern England I had never before noticed it. Next time I'm in a Sussex village I'll listen out for it!

  1. trans. Chiefly U.S. regional (chiefly south. and Midland) and Eng. regional (south.). With clause as object. To declare, claim, or state (that something is the case); to come to a specified conclusion.

1738 S.-Carolina Gaz. 26 Jan. 2/1 A large Bell.., which by good Judges is allowed to have the loudest and most melodious Sound of any Bell in the Country.

1794 N. Parry Jrnl. in Kentucky Hist. Soc. Reg. (1936) 34 388 We did not start until 10: having another Wilderness of ridges, mountains, hills..allowed to be somewhat dangerous.

1825 J. Neal Brother Jonathan I. ii. 28 Her large eyes would sparkle—so the men ‘allowed’—like the mischief.

1871 G. A. Townsend Mormon Trials 13 Well, in the first place, he allowed he was doing his religious duties, and he allowed that he had got to live with some one else.

1875 W. D. Parish Dict. Sussex Dial. 13 Master Nappet, he allowed that it was almost too bad.

1913 F. W. Becker Home Rule of Eliza xv. 249 As I never cared fer onnecessary trouble, I always allowed that the fust one to git to me would jest have to fight them other two and settle it that way.

1956 Life 9 July 48 At the conference he allowed that he was available as a candidate for President or Vice President if anybody wants him.

2009 T. Cheche Exit 10 vii. 126 She allowed as how we were welcome to avail ourselves of their basement rec room.

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