Lets or Let’s – What’s the Difference?

Contractions are a perpetual source of confusion for beginning and experienced writers alike. Some contractions are even spelled the same as other words that aren’t contractions, with only the apostrophe revealing its true nature. Adding to the confusion are possessives, which also make use of an apostrophe.

The words lets and let’s are so frequently misused by writers of all experience levels that many people don’t notice these mistakes. Still, the words are not interchangeable, and you will need to know how to choose the correct one, especially in academic and professional writing.

What is the Difference Between Lets and Let’s?

In this post, I will compare lets vs. let’s. I will use each in a sentence to demonstrate its proper use and context.

Plus, I will give you a helpful mnemonic that you can use to help remember whether to use lets or let’s in your own writing.

When to Use Lets

lets versus let’s What does lets mean? Lets is the third person singular present tense of the verb let, which means to allow or to suppose.

Here are a few examples,

  • Lattimer plays favorites in hi geometry class; he lets the girls in the back row get away with almost anything.
  • Assuming the jury lets her off the hook, Octavia will return to her leadership role at Nestle.
  • “Just as the fisherman lets the slack out of his line, he gets a bite,” remarked the narrator of the documentary.
  • “He’s street smart and he’s a lot smarter than he lets on to be,” Atkinson said. “He picks up things quick.” –New York Post

Lets is a conjugation of the verb to let.

When to Use Let’s

Definition of let’s definition and definition of lets definition What does let’s mean? Let’s is a contraction of the words let and us.

For example,

  • Let us go to the party tonight instead of the movies.

-becomes-

  • Let’s go to the party tonight instead of the movies.

Let us (let’s) look at a few more examples,

  • “Let’s eat cheese pizza and drink cream soda while we play G.I. Joes!” suggested one third grader.
  • “Let’s not say anything we can’t take back,” cautioned Brad, after Mariana insulted his favorite football team.
  • “Oh, don’t let’s start,” said Mariana, exasperated at having to repeat the same fights again and again.
  • Let’s say today is your birthday. Happy birthday, and sorry that you got so many joint birthday/holiday presents as a kid. –The Washington Post

Interestingly, Let’s is also the name of a fictional brand of potato chips that appears in several places across the film and TV universe, notably in the sitcoms Arrested Development and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, as well as the dramas Orange Is The New Black and Homicide: Life On The Street.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define let’s and define lets Lets and let’s are so close in spelling that they contain the same letters, with an apostrophe being the only distinguishing feature between them.

  • Let’s is a contraction of the verb let and the pronoun us.
  • Lets is the third person singular present tense of the same verb.

The two words are easy to confuse, but they can never be substituted for each other. Here is a helpful trick to remember let’s vs. lets.

If you remember that the apostrophe in let’s is a substitute for the U in the word us, it will be easy to reserve let’s for instances when the word is meant as a contraction.

The way you do that is by making a habit of spelling the word out (in your mind at least) when you go to write it down. If, when you spell out the full word, the sentence makes sense with “let us,” you can keep “let’s.” If it doesn’t make sense, you know that you want to pick “lets.”

Summary

Is it lets or let’s? While these words are pronounces the same, they are not interchangeably in any context.

  • Lets is the third person singular present tense of the verb let, which means to allow or suppose.
  • Let’s is a contraction of the same verb and the word us.

Since the contraction let’s has an apostrophe where the U from the word us would go, you can easily remember that let’s is a contraction.

If you require additional assistance, you can check this article for a quick refresher.