Leave vs Let

Leave vs Let

Do you LEAVE the water boil?

Or do you LET the water boil? (Answer: You LET the water boil.)

Do you LET your colleague a message?

Or do you LEAVE one? (Answer: You LEAVE it.)

Why, you might wonder, are there two verbs that seem to say the same thing?

In French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, for example, one word in each of those languages (laisser, dejar, deixar, lasciare) serves all the above contexts in English.

But in English, “leave” means ‘to walk away from.’ “Let” means to “allow or permit something to happen”.

Here are ways we use “leave”:

  • Leave (depart from):

“I usually leave work at 5 pm.”

  • Leave (leave behind, or “forget”)

“I left my umbrella at a restaurant.”

  • Leave a Message (intentionally leave a note, digitally or on paper, for someone else)

“Please leave me a message and I will call you back as soon as possible.”

Here are ways we use “let”:

  • Let (to allow or permit)

“The recipe says to let the cake bake for 40 minutes.”

“Please let me know.”

“My boss lets us work from home on Fridays.”

“Let the matter go – we are finished talking about it.”

She is letting the butterfly go (like Elsa!)


The man is leaving the room