let us.' name='description'> let's - definition and meaning


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • Contraction of let us.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • phrase A contraction of let us used to form the first-person plural imperative of verbs.


Sorry, no etymologies found.


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  • Quirk of grammar 1: The only first person imperative verb form in English. As it can be made two words, 'let us', in very careful speech (e.g. sermons, oratory), it may be that it should be analysed as a contraction of 'let us', where 'let' is the first person imperative verb. Clearly distinct from the second person imperative (e.g. 'Let us go' addressed to a kidnapper) because that can't be contracted.

    Quirk 2: The only trace of an inclusive/exclusive distinction in English, since it's only used as first person inclusive.

    Quirk 3: It straddles the border between lexical and functional verbs, since its negative can be made in two ways: with do-support like a lexical verb ('Don't let's go'), or without it ('Let's not go').

    Quirk 3 note 1: Not everyone has both options: the do-support option sounds considerably less formal to me, and may well be ungrammatical for some people. (Whereas in the second person imperative it's the only possibility: 'Don't let us go until you get the ransom.')

    Quirk 3 note 2: As the 'let's not' form can't be contracted (*let'sn't, *letn't's), it's not like a true auxiliary (these have negative forms such as 'mustn't', 'won't'). Rather, the negation may actually be of the catenative complement clause, i.e. in 'Let's not go', it might be that 'not go' is the clause attached under the imperative 'let's'.

    January 23, 2009

  • Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.

    January 23, 2009

  • Alexandra Fuller's account of her childhood in Rhodesia is called "Don't let's go to the dogs tonight". Well worth reading.

    January 23, 2009

  • As I went home from work I remembered the Noël Coward song 'Don't Let's Be Beastly to the Germans', so evidently I was wrong about this being a less formal variant, as his usage sounds old-fashioned. Well, now that I'm home, I can look up CGEL.

    * looks up * Okay, it's just says 'don't let's' is a little more informal. Moreover, the first person lacks any scope difference between the two, whereas in a second person imperative there's a clear difference in meaning between:

    Don't let us go with you. (= forbid us to)

    Let us not go with you. (= allow us to refrain)

    And yes, idioms such as 'let me see', and 'let me get this straight' suggest it's the 'let' that's the imperative.

    January 23, 2009

  • Really interesting analysis. Thanks, Qroqqa!

    January 23, 2009

  • Lithuanians and Letts do it

    Let's do it, let's fall in love

    Cole Porter

    January 25, 2009

  • Love that song!

    January 25, 2009