< Let and Leave
By Gregory Stachel and Jill Robbins
25 September 2020

Today we answer a question from Thu Huong. Thu Huong writes:


I am confused when using the words "let" and "leave." Please tell me more about them.
Thank you –Thu Huong.


Dear Thu Huong,

Thank you for writing to us. These two words may seem similar, but they have different uses. Let us look at them!

Let it be

You hear it often in everyday language. In one famous song the Beatles sing "let it be." There, it means to relax, and not worry too much about your life. At other times, you may hear "leave her be," as in this example:

The cat is not happy about visitors, please leave her be.

"Let it/her/him be" and "leave it/her/him be" mean about the same thing. That is, you should permit the cat to remain where she is, and not try to touch her.


"Let" commonly means to permit someone or something to do something. Here are a few examples:

Let me help you if you need it.

The teacher lets us take a five-minute break during class.

It is good to let your dog go outside for half an hour each day.

"Let's," a shortened form of "let us" is commonly used for making a suggestion to another person or a group of people. Here are two examples:

Let's sit under a big tree so we won't get sunburned.

Let's tell Andrew to buy some fish for our meal.

"Let us" is more rarely used. It can communicate more like a command than a suggestion. For example, during a religious service, the clergy leader might say, "Let us pray," meaning "Now, we will pray."

"Let us" also might be used when the speaker wants to add weight to a request, like in this sentence:

Please let us get a dog, Mom!

The negative way of saying this is "let's not" or "let us not". For example:

Let's not go to a movie today, it is too nice outside!


"Leave" usually means to go away from a place or person. For example:

We left the park early this afternoon.

I left my friends after the party so I could go home.

"Leave" can also mean to give up or stop having a job or position. For example:

The mayor will be leaving office in a month.

Finally, "leave" also means to let something remain as it is. This is the closest definition of "leave" to "let", but they are not quite the same. Here are some examples:

After the car accident, I left my car as it was for a few months before I got it fixed.

Painting your room? Leave the color choice to me.

I hope that helps to answer your question, Thu Huong.

And that's Ask a Teacher.

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at learningenglish@voanews.com

I'm Jill Robbins.

And I'm Gregory Stachel.

Gregory Stachel and Jill Robbins wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in This Story

negativeadj. expressing denial or refusal

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