allowed himself (the) <liberty><liberties>

baktbd

Senior Member
Chinese
1.He allowed himself the liberties of reading her letters.
2.He allowed himself the liberty of reading her letters.
3.He allowed himself liberty of reading her letters.
4.He allowed himself liberties of reading her letters.

I am confused in what circumstances I should use the plural form and am able to omit "the".
 
  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    In the sense "take a liberty" which means "behave impertinently" it is a countable noun. Version 2 is the only one which works, because "reading her letters" is a single impertinence. If he did other similar things, we might say for example "he was always allowing himself liberties with her possessions".
     

    baktbd

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    In the sense "take a liberty" which means "behave impertinently" it is a countable noun. Version 2 is the only one which works, because "reading her letters" is a single impertinence. If he did other similar things, we might say for example "he was always allowing himself liberties with her possessions".
    Thank you very much.
    Then the next question is why can't I omit "the" in Version 2 ?
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    Most of the time nouns in English require a determiner. This is one of those times, and the appropriate determiner is “the”.
     

    baktbd

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Most of the time nouns in English require a determiner. This is one of those times, and the appropriate determiner is “the”.
    If this is so , then why can the following sentences omit "the" :

    You can't take photographs here without the permission. :tick:
    We have obtained the permission to take pictures. :tick:
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    Permission here is an abstract non-countable non, and doesn’t need an article. Liberty can be an abstract non-countable noun, but in your example it is countable.
     

    baktbd

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Permission here is an abstract non-countable non, and doesn’t need an article. Liberty can be an abstract non-countable noun, but in your example it is countable.
    WOW, english is so darn hard, there are so many exceptions I have to notice 😱 🥴
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    It's not such a great exception. In the sentences that include "the", one specific liberty or permission is mentioned, which is defined within that same sentence.
    • He allowed himself a liberty. What liberty? The liberty of reading her letters.
    • We have obtained permission. What permission? The permission we needed to take pictures.
    This is not very different from other everyday examples that I'm sure you know:
    • I saw a man. What man? The man I was talking about this morning.
     

    baktbd

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    It's not such a great exception. In the sentences that include "the", one specific liberty or permission is mentioned, which is defined within that same sentence.
    • He allowed himself a liberty. What liberty? The liberty of reading her letters.
    • We have obtained permission. What permission? The permission we needed to take pictures.
    This is not very different from other everyday examples that I'm sure you know:
    • I saw a man. What man? The man I was talking about this morning.
    How do you know permission is an abstract non-countable noun, whereas liberty is not ?
    Can I say "We have obtained the permission" ?
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    I know because I've never in my life heard anybody say "the permissions", whereas I have heard people say (e.g.) "He's been taking liberties".

    Yes, you can say "We have obtained the permission..." IF the sentence continues with (e.g.) "... which we applied for." Like I said above, one specific permission is mentioned, which is defined within that same sentence.
     

    baktbd

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I know because I've never in my life heard anybody say "the permissions", whereas I have heard people say (e.g.) "He's been taking liberties".

    Yes, you can say "We have obtained the permission..." IF the sentence continues with (e.g.) "... which we applied for." Like I said above, one specific permission is mentioned, which is defined within that same sentence.
    As a non-native English speaker, I don't have the real surroundings where I can observe the way native english speakers talk, I can only do a research when it comes to this kind of question.
     
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