Word Confusion: Let’s versus Lets

Posted June 24, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 23 February 2018

This one drives me mad! Almost no one remembers that there are two ways of interpreting let’s and let us! I’m always having to pop that apostrophe in between the t and the s when I’m editing.

People! It’s not that hard! Every time you use any contraction, take the contraction out. Try it in full. If you’re using let’s, does let us provide the same impression? If it does, yeah, leave that apostrophe in there! If it doesn’t, well, whew, you caught it. Now take that apostrophe out and allow lets to stand on its own WITHOUT the apostrophe.

On the One Hand… …On the Other Hand
Let’s play…

Hey, why don’t we play a game/music/telly/???

…lets … play

We allow John/Mary/Fido to play with us?

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Let’s, a.k.a., Let Us Lets
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Belleville High School

Three geese racing across water prepratory to taking flight

“It’s a Beautiful Sight When Geese Run on Water” by kennethkonica under the CC BY-ND 2.0 license, via VisualHunt.

Let’s get out of here!

Tin sign hung between an old-fashioned outdoor thermometer and a round Coca-Cola sign in a window

“Unfurnished Apt for Rent” by turkeychik under the CC BY 2.0 license, via VisualHunt.

He lets the place cheap, I hear.

Part of Grammar:

Past tense or past participle: let us
Gerund or Present participle: letting us

Third person present verb for lets

Noun 1
Verb, transitive 2

Plural for the noun: lets
Past tense or past participle: let, letted
Gerund or present participle: letting

Used as a polite way of making or responding to a suggestion, giving an instruction, or introducing a remark Noun:
[In racket sports] A play that is nullified and has to be played again, especially a when a served ball touches the top of the net

Verb, intransitive:
To admit of being rented or leased

Verb, transitive:
Not prevent or forbid

  • Allow

Allow to pass in a particular direction

Used in the imperative to formulate various expressions

  • [Let me or let us] Used to make a polite offer of help
  • Used to express one’s strong desire for something to happen or be the case
  • Used as a way of expressing defiance or challenge
  • Used to express an assumption upon which a theory or calculation is to be based

Allow someone to have the use of a room or property in return for regular payments

  • Rent

Award a contract for a particular project to an applicant

[Archaic] Hinder 1

Let’s have a drink.

“Shall we go?” “Yes, let’s.”

Let’s party!

Oh, yes! Let’s do it.

A let will be given for any accidental hindrances.

A double fault equals a let.

Verb, intransitive:
The apartment lets for $100 per week.

Verb, transitive:
My boss let me leave early.

You mustn’t let yourself get so involved.

Could you let the dog out?

A tiny window that let in hardly any light.

“Here, let me,” offered Bruce.

“Dear God,” Jessica prayed, “let him be all right.”

If he wants to walk out, well, let him!

Let A and B stand for X and Y, respectively.

Homeowners will be able to let rooms to lodgers without having to pay tax.

They’ve let out their apartment.

Preliminary contracts were let and tunneling work started.

Pray you let us not; we fain would greet our mother.

Phrasal Verb
let down
let someone down
let something down
let oneself in for
let someone in on
let someone into
let someone off
let something off
let on
let out
let someone out
let something out
let up
History of the Word:
The noun and the verb forms both come from an Indo-European root shared by late from the Latin lassus meaning weary.

1 Old English lettan for hinder. It’s of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch letten.

2 Old English lǣtan for leave behind, leave out, of Germanic origin and related to Dutch laten and German lassen.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

I’m Not Saying Let’s Go Kill All The Stupid People is courtesy of WeKnowMemes.

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