Should I use "not" or "don't"?


Let's not make a big deal out of it.
Let's don't make a big deal out of it.

You are just trying to make us not practice.
You are just trying to make us don't practice.

Should I use "not" or "don't"?

Amish Aa

Posted 2013-05-07T18:10:31.647

Reputation: 1 333



In your first pair

  • Let's not is grammatically "correct" and common in all registers; using it in conversation will not make you sound affected or pedantic.
  • Let's don't is grammatically "incorrect" but often heard informally; it should not be used in formal writing, but will not expose you to scorn if used in conversation.

In your second pair

  • Make us not practice is grammatically acceptable, but would be used only in conversation; and even there something like keep us from practicing would be more usual.
  • Make us don't practice is unacceptable in any register.

StoneyB on hiatus

Posted 2013-05-07T18:10:31.647

Reputation: 176 469

+1 except I don't think it's quite right to say *Let's not is grammatically "correct" and common in all registers*. Let's not kid ourselves that it would be considered okay in formal written contexts. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2013-05-07T21:42:25.990

1@FumbleFingers When I was very young there were still some academics who would demand "let us", but today? - I would be surprised to encounter an objection in LitCrit or history. Perhaps this is not the case in stuffier disciplines. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-05-07T22:18:23.847

Sure, let's occurs more and more often in "academic" texts - but I think it's probably fair to say those would be from the "chatty/informal/populist" end of the spectrum, rather than what I understand by "formal written contexts". – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2013-05-07T22:25:46.343


@FumbleFingers Well, we're all populists now. See Shakespeare's Humanism, Cambridge, 2005, Robin Headlam Wells, Professor of English Literature and Director of the Centre for Research in Renaissance Studies at Roehampton. Many chapters originally appeared in very prestigious journals; you don't get much more formal than MLR and Shakespeare Survey.

– StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-05-07T22:53:44.390


When working with 'let's' and 'don't' writing them out in full and saying them out loud could help. For example:

"Let's don't make a big deal out of it" - this is, in full, "Let us do not make a big deal out of it" which is wrong.

and the other one:

"You are just trying to make us don't practice." - in full it is "You are just trying to make us do not practice"

Both those are obviously wrong.

Try this out loud and you will see it is correct: "Let's not make a big deal out of it."

Whilst I agree mostly with the first answer, in en-GB we would never use 'let's don't' informally/colloquially or ever.

I hope this gives you a way of identifying the correct way but no doubt there will be a devious exception somewhere!

Hils Cheyne

Posted 2013-05-07T18:10:31.647

Reputation: 51

I see no reason to suppose that let's don't go, for example, is any less likely in the UK than the US.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2013-05-07T21:52:47.310

1Honestly, I have always thought of the "Let's don't" construct as a bit of a Briticism. I've never heard it used in casual conversation here in the US. But of course, it's a big place and I haven't been everywhere, so I could very well be mistaken. – Ken Bellows – 2013-05-08T12:40:46.437