Lets vs Let’s: What’s the Difference?

If you get hung up on the difference between lets vs let’s, this guide will help you keep these two commonly confused and misused words straight. 

Because they are homophones, lets vs let’s can be confusing parts of the English language. Yet strong writers must know how to use the right word in the right situation. These commonly confused words have a pretty clear distinction that tells when you need to use that apostrophe, and when you can leave it off.

Lets” is the third person singular form of the verb “let,” meaning to allow or permit. “Let’s” is a contraction of “let us,” used to make a suggestion or proposal.

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Lets vs. Let’s – Different Forms for Different Uses

Lets vs lets – two forms of the same verb

One of the reasons lets vs let’s is so confusing is the fact that both are forms of the verb “to let,” which means to allow something to occur. Knowing when to use the apostrophe is critical to writing with proper grammar.

What Does Lets Mean?

Lets without the apostrophe is the third-person singular form of the verb let. It is the present tense form of the word as well. When used this way, lets means “to allow” in the present tense.

Here is an example:

  • My teacher lets us have extra recess if we all get an A on our spelling test.
  • The judge lets the family embrace after finalizing the adoption.
  • She lets her bills pile up without paying them and ends up in legal trouble.

Let can also mean “to rent.” In these examples, the word lets refers to rented property:

  • The landlord lets the apartment only to qualified buyers.
  • She lets a flat in New York City for more than my mortgage payment.

This is a less commonly used form of the word, but it is still the present tense form of the verb “to let.” This simple present conjugation always goes with a third-person subject.

Synonyms for Lets

Understanding when to use lets may be easier if you consider some synonyms for this verb. Some words that mean the same thing as “to let” include:

  • To allow
  • To give permission

What Does Let’s Mean?

What does let's mean
This is a shortened one-word version of a two-word phrase

Let’s with the apostrophe is a contraction of the words “let us.” This is a shortened one-word version of a two-word phrase. 

Here are some examples:

  • Let’s go to New York after graduation.
  • “Let’s go!” yelled the mom when she was tired of waiting on her kids at the park.
  • Since we are snowed in, let’s enjoy a family game night.

Let’s is the word to use when talking in first person plural. It’s often used in spoken English because it is faster to say the contraction than to say the two-word phrase.

A Simple Substitution to Tell the Difference

Because the two words have similar meanings and sound the same, many writers are tripped up by that tricky apostrophe. A quick way to decide if you need it or not is to substitute the phrase “let us.” If it makes sense, then you’re using the contraction and need the apostrophe.

Here’s an example:

  • Let’s start at the beginning of the book.

This sentence would mean the same thing if you wrote:

  • Let us start at the beginning of the book.

However, consider this sentence: 

  • He lets his cat sleep in the bed with him.

This would not make sense if you substituted “let us,” as in:

  • He let us his cat sleep in the bed with him.

Thus, you don’t need the apostrophe.

A Final Word on Lets vs Let’s

Lets and let’s are similar because they are both forms of the verb “to let.” Let’s is a contraction and requires an apostrophe. It is short for “let us.” Lets is the third-person singular conjugation of the verb “to let.” It does not require an apostrophe and is used with subjects like he or she. If you liked this post, you might be interested in our palate vs. pallette guide.

FAQs About Lets vs Let’s

What is the difference between let and let’s?

Let is the past tense, third-person singular conjugation of the verb “to let.” If you have a singular subject that is in the third-person, including the pronouns he, she and it, you would use the word “let.”

When do you use let’s?

Let’s is used when you are making a conjunction of the words “let us.” The apostrophe shows that the word is a conjunction.