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Permission vs. License: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Aimie Carlson || Updated on November 12, 2023
Permission refers to a consent given by someone in authority. License refers to a formal or legal grant to do something that would otherwise be prohibited.

Key Differences

Permission is a general term for consent given by someone in authority, which can be informal or verbal. A license is a formal, often legal permission, typically documented and subject to regulations.
Permissions can be for simple, everyday activities and don't always carry legal weight. Licenses are specific authorizations, often for professional activities, and usually have legal implications.
Permissions can be temporary and easily revocable. Licenses are often granted for a fixed period and come with specific conditions and obligations.
Permission can be granted by any authority figure or owner, while licenses are typically issued by governmental or regulatory bodies and may require meeting certain criteria.
Permissions are more about personal or organizational approval, while licenses have legal connotations, often granting rights or privileges under law.

Comparison Chart


Informal or verbal consent
Formal, legal authorization


General, everyday activities
Specific, often professional activities


Temporarily, easily revocable
Fixed period, with conditions


By any authority figure or owner
By governmental/regulatory bodies

Legal Implications

Less legal weight, personal approval
Legal rights and privileges, regulated

Permission and License Definitions


Consent given by someone in authority.
She gave her team permission to start the project.


An official document allowing an activity.
She obtained her driver's license last week.


Approval to perform an action.
He asked his teacher for permission to leave early.


Permission issued by a government body.
The restaurant needed a license to serve alcohol.


Official or formal approval.
Permission was granted for the event to take place.


Authorization to practice a profession.
He has a license to practice law in this state.


The liberty granted by someone in charge.
With parental permission, students can go on the field trip.


An authorization with specific terms.
Their broadcasting license comes with regulatory conditions.


Consent to use or access something.
He received permission to access the restricted files.


A document proving qualification for a task.
He got his pilot's license after extensive training.


The act of permitting, especially in giving formal consent; authorization
Do they have permission to leave?.


Official or legal permission to engage in a regulated activity
"He believed that the subcommittee gave him license to interrogate anyone about any possible links to communism" (Donald A. Ritchie).


An authorization to do something, as to quote from a book under copyright.


A document, card, plate, or tag that is issued as proof of official or legal permission
A driver's license.


Authorisation; consent (especially formal consent from someone in authority)
Sire, do I have your permission to execute this traitor?


A contract allowing someone to use a proprietary product or service
Has a site license for that software.


The act of permitting.


(computing) Flags or access control lists pertaining to a file that dictate who can access it, and how.
I used the "chmod" command to change the file's permission.


(transitive) To grant or obtain authorization for.


The act of permitting or allowing; formal consent; authorization; leave; license or liberty granted.
High permission of all-ruling Heaven.
You have given me your permission for this address.


Approval to do something;
He asked permission to leave


The act of giving a formal (usually written) authorization


Does a license always involve legal aspects?

Most often, yes. Licenses are typically formal and have legal implications.

Can anyone grant permission?

Yes, anyone in a position of authority or ownership can grant permission.

Who issues licenses?

Licenses are usually issued by governmental or regulatory authorities.

Is permission sufficient for professional activities?

In many cases, professional activities require a license, not just permission.

Can permission be written?

Yes, permission can be written, though it's often given verbally.

Is permission always informal?

Not always. Permission can be both informal or formal, but it's generally less formal than a license.

Does a license indicate skill or proficiency?

Often, obtaining a license requires demonstrating certain skills or qualifications.

Are licenses transferable?

Licenses are usually non-transferable and specific to the individual or entity.

Do I need permission to use someone's intellectual property?

Yes, using someone's intellectual property typically requires their permission.

Can permission be implied?

Yes, in some contexts, permission can be implied by actions or circumstances.

Can a minor give permission?

Legally, a minor's permission may not hold weight, especially for significant decisions.

How long does permission last?

The duration of permission varies and can be revoked at any time by the granter.

Is a driving permit the same as a license?

No, a permit usually has more restrictions and is a step towards getting a full license.

Can permission be legally binding?

Written permission can be legally binding if it meets certain criteria.

Are there different types of licenses?

Yes, there are many types, including professional, business, and driver's licenses.

Can license terms be negotiated?

In some cases, terms of a license, especially in contracts, can be negotiated.

Is parental consent a form of permission?

Yes, parental consent is a common form of permission for minors.

Does every business need a license?

Most businesses require some form of licensing, but requirements vary by location and industry.

Is a business license the same as incorporation?

No, a business license permits operation, while incorporation is the process of legally forming a company.

What happens if a license expires?

Once a license expires, its legal validity ends, and it needs to be renewed.
About Author
Written by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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