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Session 1

What's the difference between let and allow? Find out in just 90 seconds.

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

Let & allow

What's the difference?

The verbs let and allow have similar meanings – both are related to giving permission. But they're not used in exactly the same way. In this video, Finn teaches us about one important difference in just 90 seconds. What is it?

Watch the video and complete the activity

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Hi, this is Finn with another BBC English Class. Now today we're looking at the verbs let and allow. They're both used to talk about permission – but what is the difference? I know you're a busy person – so I'm going to teach you one important difference in just 90 seconds.

Starting now. OK, so what's the difference?

Here's the one main point: allow – passive, allow – passive. Now what do I mean by that? I mean that we often use the verb allow in the passive voice. Now it's a bit more formal than let. And we don't really use let in the passive.

Still a bit confusing? OK, let's look at an example… Imagine I'm a landlord – and you want to stay in my apartment. So I have some rules for you.

Now I could just use the active voice and say: "I allow you to cook in the kitchen." Or: "I don't allow you to smoke in the bedroom."

But when we're giving things like rules it's quite normal to use the passive because we know who's doing the allowing. The agent is known. So we don't really need to say: "I allow you..." We could use the passive and say: "You are allowed to smoke…" No you're not. "You are allowed to cook in the kitchen." Or: "You are not allowed to smoke in the bedroom."

Twenty-four seconds left.

So, could we use let in the same situation? Could we say let in the passive voice?

"You are let to cook in the kitchen."

Or: "You're not let to smoke in the bedroom."

No we couldn't do that, so just remember: we use allow in the passive voice but we don't use let.

Clock beeps

I think I did it just in time. So there we are: allow – passive. Just remember that. And because I squeezed my language point into 90 seconds I think I will allow myself a little treat! See you next time.


The main difference in the video is that allow is often used in the passive, but let is not used in the passive. The video also mentions that allow is also slightly more formal than let.

Form (allow in passive)

Subject + to be + allowed (past participle)

For more about the passive voice, take a look at the Grammar Reference, as well as here and here.

Take note

While you're here, here's another useful tip. In the active voice, allow takes the infinitive + to, but let does not.

  • They let him leave early to go to the doctor.
  • She let her brother borrow the car.
  • They allowed him to leave early to go to the doctor.
  • She allowed her brother to borrow the car.

To do

You are going to read a conversation about office rules between a new employee and a colleague who has worked at the company for some time. Can you complete their conversation with grammatically correct forms?

Am I allowed to...?

6 Questions

Complete the dialogue between a new employee and their colleague by choosing the grammatically correct options.

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End of Session 1

And that's it, well done! You're allowed to take a break now…

In the next session, we teach you some important vocabulary for understanding the news.

Session Grammar

  • Let and allow

    Allow is often used in the passive voice, but let is not.

    The form is:

    Subject + to be + allowed

    • You are allowed to eat in the kitchen