Lets vs. Let’s – Pick the Correct Word
It can be hard to remember whether to use lets or let’s. Should you use an apostrophe, or not?
Most homophones differentiated by an apostrophe are completely different words. This includes pairs such as “its and it’s,” “your and you’re,” and “whose and who’s.”
Lets and let’s are no exception.
Despite looking and sounding similar, the two words are unrelated, and using them correctly is important.
Short and Sweet: Lets vs. Let’s
These words are distinct in their uses and have no overlap.
- Lets is a present tense conjugation of the verb to let.
- Let’s is a contraction of the words let us.
Continue reading for a tip to remember when to use let’s or lets in your writing.
What Does Lets Mean?
Meaning of Lets: Lets is the a present tense conjugation of the verb to let, specifically the third person singular present tense. This means it is used with pronouns like he, she, it, they, etc.
To let, of course, means to allow or not to forbid.
- My cat never lets me pet her belly.
- My aunt always lets her daughter do whatever she wants!
In both of these examples, lets is being used to mean allows.
Lets has other meanings as well. It can mean to finish or conclude.
- Class lets out at 2:30.
It can mean to allow someone to rent a room in a home or apartment.
- Can I sub-let my room?
There are many other senses of the word, but the important takeaway is that they are all verbs and they mostly have to do with permission.
What Does Let’s Mean?
Meaning of Let’s: Let’s is a contraction of the words “let us.” When the two words are combined, the apostrophe takes the place of the “U.” An apostrophe reminds us that a contraction is short for two words.
However, in most modern contexts, using “let us” in place of let’s would sound stiff and old fashioned. The phrase let’s is used casually to make a request or a suggestion, or to soften a command. Let’s communicates the speaker’s desire for the present company to do something.
One can consider “let’s” as a substitute for “I want for us to,” or “we should.”
- Let’s go see a movie. > Let us go see a movie.
- We should go see a movie.
- Let’s not go there. > Let us not go there.
- I don’t want to go there with you.
- Let’s see what you’ve got. > Let us see what you’ve got.
- Show us what you’ve got.
Take note, however, that one cannot always contract “let us” into let’s, as it may sometimes change the meaning. For example, “let us go” is a demand to be released, while “let’s go” is a suggestion to leave.
Let’s vs. Lets: How to Remember the Difference
Let’s is a substitute for let us, and it means that the speaker would like for us to do something. Use let’s where “we should” would make sense. If “we should” doesn’t make sense in the sentence, then lets is the correct word to use in that instance.
Recap: When to Use Lets and Let’s
Lets is the a present tense conjugation of “to let,” which means to permit or to release. It should be used where a verb is appropriate.
Let’s is a contraction of “let us.” It is used to mean “I want us to,” or “we should.” Let’s generally precedes a soft command, a request, or a suggestion.