let, lets and let's - the difference

by Craig Shrives
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)


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.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are nouns? What are verbs? Commas with the vocative case List of easily confused words