Learn when to use lets vs. let's with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.
My all-time favorite opening to a poem is T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," in which he entreats the reader, "Let us go then, you and I." I love the direct invitation to travel with the writer through the poem. And, I admit, I often think of it when I ponder the difference between "lets" and "let's."
So, let us go then, you and I, to discuss which to use and why.
Lets vs. Let's
Lets is the third person present tense form of the verb "let," which means to allow or permit something. The reader lets a text to speak to them, or the writer lets an idea grow over time before turning it into a story.
Let's is a contraction of two words: "let" and "us." Take the poetic line, "Let us go then, you and I." A more concise (though not as poetic) way to say the same thing is simply, "Let's go."
Let's go through a few examples:
Correct: She lets that guy talk to her on the bus.
Incorrect: She let's that guy talk to her on the bus.
Correct: He lets the kids take an extra cookie with their lunch.
Incorrect: He let's the kids take an extra cookie with their lunch.
Correct: Let's go to the concert tonight.
Incorrect: Lets go to the concert tonight.
Let's avoid the trap that lets us forget when we should use lets or let's. To avoid confusion, think of Eliot's poem and whether you mean to contract "let" and "us" or use a verb instead.