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In this sentence:

We are forbidden a) to smoke in the classroom or b) from smoking in the classroom.

Which sounds better? I know that these two options are correct, however I’m thinking which one is more common and natural to you?

My British colleague told me "to smoke" is a better option, sounds more natural, what do you think about it?

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    Smoking in the classroom is forbidden. "Forbidden from smoking" sounds right to me, but "we are forbidden to smoke" sounds weird.
    – ralph.m
    Feb 28 at 8:15

2 Answers 2

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Yes; Cambridge Dictionary, for instance, licenses both 'forbidden to' and 'forbidden from':

forbid [verb; transitive] ...

to order someone not to do something, or to say that something must not happen:

  • [ + to do something]: I forbid you to see that boy again.
  • [often passive, + from + doing something]: He is forbidden from leaving the country.

However, 'It is forbidden from smoking in the staffroom' sounds ghastly. Google 4-grams show that 'it is forbidden to' is the overwhelmingly more idiomatic choice. Also, the Google 4-grams for 'we are forbidden to', 'we are forbidden from' show that the former is by far the more idiomatic choice:

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I personally would avoid 'forbidden from'.

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Opinions differ:

FORBID, PROHIBIT

These verbs are near synonyms, but they take different prepositions. Use to rather than from with forbid, and from rather than to with prohibit. Take care to avoid sentences like They were forbidden from using cameras and They were prohibited to use cameras. Make it forbidden to use or prohibited from using.
Lester Kaufman and Jane Straus; The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation (2021)

forbid someone to do something (not from doing)

needs checking — The witnesses were forbidden from leaving the scene of the crime until the police had completed their preliminary investigation.

revised — The witnesses were forbidden to leave the scene of the crime until the police had completed their preliminary investigation.
Corey Frost, Karen Weingarten et al.; The Broadview Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation (2024)

FORBID

• The verbs "forbid" is used as follows"
• "Forbid doing sth"
-- School authorities forbid bringing food to cafeteria.
• "Forbid smo from doing sth"
-- School authorities forbid the students from bringing food to cafeteria.
• "Be forbidden to do sth"
-- It is forbidden to bring food to cafeteria.
-- Bringing food to cafeteria is forbidden by school authorities.
• "Be forbidden from doing sth"
-- Students are forbidden from bringing food to cafeteria.
Ulku Kucukakin; Complete English Grammar For Exam Purposes: Summary & Practice Tests (2021)

forbid, prohibit. The words have the same meaning, but the construction of sentences often dictates which should be used. In prepositional constructions, forbid may be followed only by to ("I forbid you to go"). Prohibit may not be followed by to but only by from ("He was prohibited from going") or by an object noun ("The law prohibits the construction of houses without planning consent"). Thus the following is wrong: "They are forbidden from uttering any public comments" (New York Times). Make it either "They are prohibited from uttering..." or "They are forbidden to utter..." A small additional point is that forbid's past-tense form, forbade, has the preferred pronunciation "for-bad," not "for-bade."
Bill Bryson; Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words (2004)

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  • They were prohibited to use cameras? I'd say: from using cameras, myself.
    – Lambie
    Feb 28 at 14:49
  • @Lambie It says to avoid sentences like "They were prohibited to use cameras."
    – DjinTonic
    Feb 28 at 15:29
  • Sorry, but it also says to avoid: they were forbidden from using cameras.
    – Lambie
    Feb 28 at 15:40
  • @Lambie Yes, and the other grammar OKs "Students are forbidden from bringing food to cafeteria." I've learned that I'm evidently confused myself, but didn't realize it until now :) Perhaps what's "acceptable" is changing, or maybe it was never written in stone.
    – DjinTonic
    Feb 28 at 16:00

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