Intermediate word of the day: ban

If you ban something, you say officially that people must not do, sell or use it. People can also be banned – if it’s officially said that they’re not allowed to do something.

Here are some things that are sometimes banned:

  • Books and films may be banned if the government worries that they might offend people – make them angry or upset – or if they feel they’re too graphic – they depict sex or violence in a very detailed way. Sometimes a book or a film may get banned because the authorities are worried that it might encourage violence. Art is also sometimes banned because it’s seen as being dangerous and authorities worry that it may weaken their power or influence.
  • Political and religious organisations are sometimes banned as well, if they’re believed to pose a threat to society or if it’s thought that they’re inciting racial or religious hatred.
  • Things are sometimes banned because officials realise that they’re potentially harmful to people. So smoking was banned in the UK in 2007 in an attempt to reduce the number of deaths caused by tobacco use and to protect people working inside from passive smoking. In the same way, in 1997, the United Nations banned the production and use of chemical weapons.
  • If you’re caught drink-driving or if the police catch you driving without insurance or a licence, you might be banned from driving for three months – or longer! When a footballer gets a red card and is sent off, they usually get banned for the next three matches, but sometimes the ban can be much longer. For instance, in 1995, when he played at Manchester United, Frenchman Eric Cantona was banned for eight months for kicking a member of the crowd! Athletes who fail drug tests will often be banned as well – sometimes for life!
  • Other things that officials sometimes try to ban include online gambling, cigarette and fast-food advertising, fox hunting, trade union membership, going on strike, and parking in certain areas.

Ban can also be a noun, so when two countries are having a trade war or a diplomatic argument, one might impose a ban on goods from the other. If relations between the two countries improve, they may then lift the ban. In London, some local councils have imposed a ban on drinking alcohol in certain areas and sometimes when we have really hot, dry summers, we’re not allowed to water our gardens because they impose a hosepipe ban!

Cover the text. What do you remember?

  • Why might films or books get banned?
  • For what other reasons might art sometimes be banned?
  • When was smoking banned in the UK? Why?
  • Say three things people can be banned from – and explain why.
  • Say five other things that might sometimes get banned.
  • What’s the opposite of lifting a ban?

Read about bans in the news

It seems that hardly a week goes by without news of some awful shooting somewhere or other in the United States, but this week’s atrocity in Las Vegas was particularly shocking. So far, 59 people have been officially confirmed dead, but that number is expected to rise. As always happens after these kinds of events, there have been fresh calls for a ban on the kind of automatic weapons that the killer used. Sadly, the NRA – the National Rifle Association – continues to resist any attempt to ban firearms, claiming that it’s not guns that kill – it’s people. We have people here too, believe it or not, but we’ve not yet had one of them shoot randomly into huge crowds at a concert!

In other news, England and Everton footballer Wayne Rooney was banned from driving for two years after he was caught drink-driving at 2am on the 1st of September. I suspect he can still afford to pay for someone to drive him around, though, so don’t feel too sad for him! Oh, and Uber have been banned from operating in London, after they failed to stick to the rules that taxi companies in the capital must follow.


  • Can you think of anything that’s been banned recently where you live? Do you support the ban? Why? / Why not?
  • Can you think of anyone who’s been banned from driving, banned from playing / competing or banned from entering – or leaving – the country? Why?
  • Do you know any books, films or works of art that have been banned? Why were they banned?
  • Why do you think the USA is so unwilling to ban guns? How do you feel about this?

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