Leave Alone vs. Let Alone

Q: Can you differentiate let and leave (as in, “Let me alone” and “Leave me alone”)? I get confused as to when each should be used. –Jan I.
       
A: There is a pretty simple difference between let and leave when used in this context, and it’s quite easy to explain.

“Leave alone” means to leave a person all by himself (in solitude). Please leave me alone, I don’t want company. Alvin needs to study, so let’s leave him alone in his room.

“Let alone,” on the other hand, means to stop bothering the person. Stop poking my leg and let me alone, Simon; I’m trying to watch TV. Theodore wanted his singing coach to let him alone instead of critiquing his singing. (And yes, I am going with a Chipmunks theme here.)

While the definitions above are the traditional uses of both words, it is becoming more common (and more acceptable) to use “leave me alone” in both contexts. But if you want to be a grammar purist, keep them separate.

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