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let, lets and let's - the difference

The Quick Answer
To let can mean to allow or to rent out. As you'd expect, it goes: I let, you let, he lets, etc.

A let can be a nullified play in sport or a rented property. As you'd expect, the plural is lets.

Let's (with an apostrophe) is a contraction of let us. It is similar in meaning to we should.

Let and Lets

The word let has several meanings. It can be a noun or a verb.

As a noun (e.g., a holiday let), it has the plural lets (e.g., three holiday lets). As a verb in the present tense, it goes:
  • I let
  • you let
  • he/she/it lets
  • we let
  • you let
  • they let
Below are the meanings for let:

A play usually in racket/racquet sports) which is nullified and has to be played again.
  • The ball touched the top of the net causing a let.
  • There have been three lets on this serve so far.
A rented property (as a noun):
  • This is a holiday let.
  • There are a few lets on this estate.
To rent a property (as a verb):
  • She is prepared to let this building for six months.
  • This building is to let.
  • She lets several houses in the area.
To allow:
  • He let the dog lick his lollipop.
  • Paula lets him cook the dinner on Fridays.
  • The man who lets himself be bored is even more contemptible than the bore. (Samuel Butler, 1835-1902)
  • There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. (Graham Greene)

Let's

The word let's is a contraction of let us. Let's [do something] is close in meaning to We should [do something]. For example:
  • Let's go fishing.
  • Let's have a party. Oh yes, let's.
  • Let's have a party if mum lets us.
  • I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters. (Solomon Short)
  • Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: "I'm with you kid. Let's go." (Maya Angelou)

A slogan on a T shirt highlighting the importance of commas.
Unfortunately, it should say let's not lets. Ooops.
Quick Test