Lets vs. Let's: Mastering the Difference

Let's discuss the difference between lets and let's! It's easier than you think to know where that pesky apostrophe goes. Take a look at these explanations and sentence examples to truly master the difference between lets vs. let's.

lets versus let's example cat dog lets versus let's example cat dog

How Lets and Let's Are Similar

Both lets and let's are based on the same verb: let, which means "to allow." They also sound exactly the same when spoken, since there's only an apostrophe between them. That's why it's confusing to tell them apart. However, they have very different meanings.

How Lets and Let's Are Different

Using lets when you mean let's could be an embarrassing grammar mistake. It could also cause an unintended misunderstanding if your reader can't tell which version of the phrase you're trying to use. Here's how you tell the difference:

  • lets - third-person form of "let"
  • let's - contraction of "let us"

Many people mix up these words because "let us" is no longer part of standard English, especially in casual conversation. But let's generally means "we should," used when making suggestions about something to do. Contractions always require apostrophes and verbs never do, so you can't use the two words in the same way.

Sentence Examples With Lets

When you use the word lets, you're using it to describe what a singular or collective noun is doing. These sentences are always in the present tense, as the past tense version of lets is always let, no matter the speaker. Sentences that use lets include:

  • The teacher lets us play games on Friday.
  • What should we do if no one lets us in?
  • This big window really lets Jeremy see the entire city.
  • My mother never lets me have dessert before dinner.
  • Lara lets out a sigh as she watches the sunset.

Try substituting lets with let us in each sentence. For example: "The teacher let us us play games on Friday" or "My mother never let us me have dessert before dinner." They don't make sense because the verb lets now has two objects.

Sentence Examples With Let's

So where does let's come in? It's a phrase that makes its way into more sentences than you think. Check out these example sentences with let's:

  • I know you're busy, but let's meet up the next time you're in town.
  • Let's hope it doesn't rain during the birthday party on Saturday.
  • Let's think about all the evidence before we come to a conclusion.
  • Let's all stay in touch when vacation's over.
  • I'm too tired to cook, so let's go out for dinner.

You'll likely find let's at the beginning of a sentence or clause. That's because the us in the contraction is the subject of the sentence. These sentences seem like they're in the present tense, but they're actually imperative sentences. Let functions like the modal verb should in these cases.


Lets Go vs. Let's Go

Two especially tricky phrases in the English language are lets go (he, she or it releases something) and let's go (we should go somewhere). Both are common in conversational speech, which makes it hard to know when to use an apostrophe. Check out these example of lets go in sentences in the present tense:

  • The acrobat lets go of the pole.
  • Our puppy lets go of the rope after playing tug-of-war.
  • Henry is happier when he lets go of his stress and anxiety.

You also use lets go without an apostrophe when using the idiom to mean "fire" or "dismiss someone from their job." Now take a look at these imperative sentences using let's go:

  • Let's go to the park this afternoon.
  • That party sounds fun! Let's go!
  • Let's go on a hike before lunch.

Notice that both lets go and let's go come before prepositions. However, only lets go is followed by of. Other prepositions, such as to or on, tend to follow let's go.

Clear Up Those Grammar Misunderstandings

Now that you know the difference between these words, let's not make any more apostrophe mistakes! A quick grammar refresher can do wonders for your writing and conversation ability. For more subtle-but-important grammar tips, check out these tips on toward vs. towards. You can also clear up those confusing issues surrounding loose vs. lose.