Is "let" a modal?


Must the verb that follow let always be an infinitive regardless of the context, even in a reported speech? For example,

He told us to let him saw her one last time.

Is that correct?


Posted 2019-01-28T02:18:48.410


4No, it's not correct. Let followed by a noun phrase takes an infinitive. Past tense verbs like saw are only used in tensed clauses with nominative subjects (not him). There is an infinitive saw meaning to use a saw on something (or in the case of the example sentence, someone). This is probably not what you want to say. – John Lawler – 2019-01-28T02:47:08.067

2@JohnLawler it could be a retiring magician who's feeling nostalgic. ;) – Jason Bassford – 2019-01-28T02:53:15.930

So, no, let isn't a modal auxiliary verb. But you're not totally wrong; it does have modal senses. Let occurs in many of the same kind of constructions that shall does: Let us/Let's dance means the same thing as Shall we dance?, and could be used in most of the same contexts with the same pragmatic intent. And the singular works the same way: Let me open the window = Shall I open the window? The modal auxiliary shall is largely restricted to those constructions in American English, and clearly let has some senses that govern deontic modality. – John Lawler – 2019-01-28T16:30:05.790

3If let were a modal, you couldn't make a to-infinitive out of it the way you just did. Modals are defective. – tchrist – 2019-01-28T04:10:01.213

to let means to allow in your sentence. – Lambie – 2019-01-30T17:43:18.230



TO LET is not a modal verb. It is different from them semantically and formally.

  1. "Modality is about a speaker’s or a writer’s attitude towards the world.

A speaker or writer can express certainty, possibility, willingness, obligation, necessity and ability by using modal words and expressions.

Speakers often have different opinions about the same thing.

Modal verbs

Here are the main verbs we use to express modal meanings:

Core modal verbs:  can, could, may, might, will, shall, would, should, must.

Semi-modals:  dare, need, ought to, used to.

Other verbs with modal meanings:  have (got) to, be going to and be able to." (

TO LET is an action verb. It means 'to allow'. It is also used as a polite way of making or responding to a suggestion, giving an instruction, or introducing a remark.

  1. The forms of TO LET are also different from modals. It has the Infinitive, the Finite forms, can be in the Imperative Mood, is often used with modals. For example (

// Could you let the dog out?

// Let's have a drink!

// They've let out their house.

// A tiny window that let in hardly any light.


Posted 2019-01-28T02:18:48.410

Reputation: 618