Lets and Let's

Commonly Confused Words

lets and let's
(Getty Images)

Lets and let's are different forms of the same verb. Follow these tips and it shouldn't be difficult to tell them apart.
.

Definitions

Lets (without an apostrophe) is the third-person singular form of the verb let, which means allow, permit, lease, or release.

Let's (with an apostrophe) is the contracted form of let us. (The phrase *let's us is nonstandard for let's, so let's not use it.)

See the usage notes below.

Also see: Avoid These 10 Words in Formal Writing.

Examples

  • Sometimes my grandmother lets us go to the park in the evening and play on the long stretches of soft grass.
     
  • "On the corner of Prospect Avenue and East 167th Street where the bus lets me out, I see Rakeem waiting for me."
    (Carolyn Ferrell, "Proper Library." Ploughshares, 1994)
     
  • "Dirt is a great respecter of persons; it lets you alone when you are well dressed, but as soon as your collar is gone it flies towards you from all directions."
    (George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London, 1933)
     
  • "My stories run up and bite me on the leg. I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off."
    (American author Ray Bradbury
     
  • My little sister said, "Let's pretend the puppet family is going on a picnic."
     
  • Let's go home, Bail. Let's just get to the house and we can talk. Let's go home, Bail.”
    (Maya Angelou, Gather Together in My Name. Random House, 1974)

     

    Usage Notes

    • Let Us or Let's
      "The difference between [let us and let's] is largely a question of formality, as often with contractions. Compare the ceremonious Let us pray with the informal Let's pray for rain. The uncontracted let us is useful in formal documents when writers want to maintain an authoritative tone while involving readers in the discussion . . ..

      "In its negative form this idiom becomes either Let us not (go into that), Let's not (go into that), or Don't let's (go into that). Once again they represent degrees of formality."
      (Pam Peters, The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. Cambridge University Press, 2004)
       
    • Leave and Let
      "Note that in standard American usage the verb leave is not used as a substitute for let in the sense 'to allow or permit.' Thus in the following examples only let should be used: Let me be. Let them go. Let us not quarrel. Let it lie."
      (The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style. Houghton MIfflin, 2005)

       

    Practice

    (a) When the other teachers aren't looking, Mr. Mays _____ us play football behind the school.

    (b) _____ go to the diner and finish our homework together.

    (c) My brother said, "_____ take the shortcut through the woods."

    (d) In the grocery store, Ms. Brown _____ my uncle have a quart of milk on credit.

     

    Answers to Practice Exercises

    Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

    Answers to Practice Exercises: Lets and Let's

    (a) When the other teachers aren't looking, Mr. Mays lets us play football behind the school.

    (b) Let's go to the diner and finish our homework together.

    (c) My brother said, "Let's take the shortcut through the woods."

    (d) In the grocery store, Ms. Brown lets my uncle have a quart of milk on credit.

     

    Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

    Format
    mla apa chicago
    Your Citation
    Nordquist, Richard. "Lets and Let's." ThoughtCo, Oct. 5, 2016, thoughtco.com/lets-and-lets-1689432. Nordquist, Richard. (2016, October 5). Lets and Let's. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/lets-and-lets-1689432 Nordquist, Richard. "Lets and Let's." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/lets-and-lets-1689432 (accessed January 21, 2018).