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Don’t Do That!

There are different ways to tell somebody they aren’t allowed to do something.

1. Speech

SituationPhraseExamples
commonyou can’t…1) You can’t go out tonight.
2) You can’t go, sorry.
formalyou aren’t allowed (to) …1) You aren’t allowed to smoke here.
2) You aren’t allowed to see her, OK.
formal… isn’t allowed1) Running in the corridor isn’t allowed.
2) Smoking isn’t allowed in this restaurant.
very formal… isn’t permitted1) Dogs aren’t permitted in the museum, sir.
2) I’m afraid lighters aren’t permitted on flights.
strongyou mustn’t…1) You mustn’t see him again, understand?
2) You mustn’t waste our money on this rubbish.

Note: tone makes a big difference. Saying ‘You can’t go’ is very different from screaming ‘You can’t go!’

2. Signs

SituationPhraseExamples
commonNo …ing1) No smoking.
2) No diving.
blunt / directNo (+ n.)1) No phones.
2) No foreigners.
formalNo … allowed.1) No dogs allowed.
2) No entry allowed after 7pm.
formal… is not allowed (+ place)1) Smoking is not allowed in the theatre at any time.
2) Children are not allowed to enter the park unsupervised.
very formal… is not permitted (+ place)1) Running is not permitted in the corridors.
2) Guests are not permitted in the hotel after 11pm.
strict rule / law… is prohibited1) Smoking is prohibited at all times.
2) Explosives are prohibited on the train.

3. The ‘Softly, Softly’ Approach

Sometimes formal requests can be made using ‘friendlier’ language. These are usually made by companies or authorities who want to sound soft or friendly, but still want to tell people what to do.

These friendlier approaches ‘suggest’ people don’t do things – although they really means ‘don’t’.

PhraseExamples
Please refrain from1) Please refrain from using flash photography.
2) Please refrain from eating or drinking in the library.
Thank you for1) Thank you for keeping our park tidy.
2) Thank you for not smoking.
We appreciate you1) We appreciate you not smoking.
2) We appreciate you not using your cell phone during the movie.

4. Exercises

1. Tell somebody they cannot:
(i) park here
(ii) bring children here
(iii) use a mobile / cell phone in this area.

2. Think of some rules for your classroom or work. How would you put these on signs (would you be clear, or use the ‘softly, softly’ approach?)

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