In the dictionary

let somebody/something go | let go (of somebody/something): ​to stop holding somebody/something

Don't let the rope go.

Don't let go of the rope.

Let go! You're hurting me!

I think we often say "let go of a thing" when that thing is leaving us or moving away from us or trying to escape us.

For example, 2 children are fighting over a car, and they are pulling the car towards themselves. And you say, "let go of the car" (the car is moving away from you).

Now, your son is holding tight onto a chair. The chair stands still, it won't move away from the boy.

Can we say "let go of the chair" when the chair stands still and won't move away from the boy?

  • 25
    To let go of something means to stop gripping or holding that thing, whether it is moving or not. Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 12:42
  • 1
    The given answer is correct, but also note that the "Don't let the rope go" example in the question (as opposed to "don't let go of the rope") does usually imply that the rope will move away when let go of. This is probably the basis for your assumption that things need to be moving away from eachother when not held.
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 10:36
  • If you're hanging onto a rope and you let go of it, you fall, the rope stays where it is.
    – Barmar
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 17:56
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    @Hearth True. Or if you're a pair of mountain climbers, it depends on whether you're the one at the bottom or top.
    – Barmar
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 21:04
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    @BruceWayne, Vietnamese is my mother tongue. We will say "release it" (literally translated) in this situation in Vietnamese. Native speakers talk English unconscionably. But when I say something, I have to think about situation in the dictionary. That is why I've got a lot of questions like this. But many times, many native speakers think I am asking stupid questions.
    – Tom
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 15:05

5 Answers 5


The distinction you describe does not exist. "Let go of" just means to stop holding something, regardless of what's moving away or if anything is moving at all.

"Let go of the chair" is a perfectly normal thing to say.

  • 1
    Worth noting that the distinction doesn't exist any more (see chasly's answer). Originally, "let go" meant exactly what the individual words would imply, "allow to depart", and it's perfectly sensible for a learner to infer that meaning. Incorrect, but sensible. Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 5:17

To let go is from c. 1300 as "allow to escape," 1520s as "cease to restrain," 1530s as "dismiss from one's thoughts."


Words change their meaning over time as you can see from the above excerpt.

Originally "to let go" referred to objects that could move, meaning "allow them to depart". Later it came to mean "release your grip".

Nowadays we usually employ different grammar to indicate the difference.

Let the prisoners go! (release the prisoners from imprisonment)

Let go of the prisoners! (stop physically grasping the prisoners)

Note: As is usual in English, the true meaning is understood from the context of what is being said.


To “let go” of a physical grip on someone or something does not require movement.

We also “let go” of an emotional grip on someone or something, usually because we were hurt by them/it leaving us.


You can say "let go of the chair" or you can say "let the chair go".

Both phrases can be used whether the chair is moves or not. However "let the chair go" has a second meaning, similar to "let the chair fall".

If you use second phrase, it's up to the listener to decide from context which meaning is intended.

You can see how these phases are constructed if you consider the phrase "let the dog run". There is no equivalent "let run of the dog" - that is simply wrong.


In general use:

let go = allow to move (leave)

this is the literal meaning of the two words "let" and "go"

let go of = release control of

this is a phrasal verb by addition of the preposition "of"

and now for the detailed but necessary to understand part:

You will often see "Let go!" used in situations where time is short, but used in this way, it is actually an abreviated form of "Let go of [insert animal or object here]!"

eg. when a child says it to a bigger child holding him:

"Let go!" = "Let go [of me]!"

now to bring it back to the question:

The first time you tell a child to release control of an object, it would be normal to say the whole sentence politely:

Please let go of the chair.

but the need to repeat oneself usually devolves first into the less polite:

Let go of the chair!

and finally if no compliance seems forthcoming:

Let go! Let go! = Let go [of the chair]! Let go [of the chair]!

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