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The passive with "let"

English Language & Usage Asked by Enguroo on December 26, 2020

As a rule, we don’t use the passive voice with “let”. “Allow” or “permit” is normally used instead:

We were allowed to do whatever we wanted.

We were permitted to drive the vehicle.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, we don’t usually use the passive with “let”, but are there any exceptions?

3 Answers

Strictly, the verb let has a transitive usage. As the Oxford online dictionary confirms (and, I am certain, the Cambridge also), the verb ‘to let’ is used in its sense of allow includes the transitive sense of to rent out property (apartments, office space, and so on).

British with object. Allow someone to have the use of (a room or property) in return for regular payments. ‘she let the flat to a tenant’. ‘they've let out their house’

By implication, we can have sentences like:

The apartment has already been let or on a notice board the one word Let indicating that the relevant property has just been let

But in fact, as the Oxford Dictionary goes on to point out, there are many well-known uses of ‘let’ in the sense of ‘allow’.

“I was badly let down by you.”

“Have my trousers been let out yet?”

“He was let down from the roof on a rope.”

“I’m letting you off the punishment this once, but you won’t be let off again.”

.... and so on.

Correct answer by Tuffy on December 26, 2020

An oddity of the transitive verb let is that it also means "hinder". Perhaps it's just British English, as it appears as a noun in British passports ("without let or hindrance") and it's also called in tennis if the ball hits the net as it passes over it. I don't know of any other reasonably common uses in modern English.

Thus it's possible to say "The ball was let" with that meaning.

Answered by Andrew Leach on December 26, 2020

The sloop was tied up at the pier. All but the captain had been let ashore. The new captain, that is. The old captain and his first mate had been let adrift somewhere off Barbuda.

Answered by Global Charm on December 26, 2020

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