I forgot to write "to" in my test, but I am not sure if it's still okay. So can you help me please?

The sentence I wrote:

Families let their children play games.

What I was supposed to write:

Families let their children to play games.

But I want to know if it is still okay without 'to'.

  • Why do you think it's correct with the "to"? "Families let their children play games" is completely correct, but "Families let their children to play games" sounds off to me. Maybe you're thinking of something like "Families bring their children to the playground to play games"? Jul 12 at 9:48
  • 4
    Let does not take [Direct Object] + [to-infinitive], but [Direct Object] + [bare infinitive]: I let my children drive. // Verbs are unpredictable. Allow does take [Direct Object] + [to-infinitive], not [Direct Object] + [bare infinitive]: I do not allow my children to drive. Jul 12 at 10:06
  • Let is one of a fairly small number of verbs (also make, have, help,...) that don't need the "infinitive marker" to before the associated "bare infinitive". I made her stop, He had me resign, They let us go, It helped me sleep,... Note that allow, for example, isn't one of those, so it's They let their children play games, but They allow their children to play games. Jul 12 at 13:36
  • You might want to check the usage for causative verbs: make, help, have and get.
    – Lambie
    Jul 12 at 15:35

The word "let" has multiple definitions, two of which are:

let verb 1 (with object and infinitive) Not prevent or forbid; allow. 3 British (with object) Allow someone to have the use of (a room or property) in return for regular payments. -Lexico

In your example, the intended usage is likely to be definition 1. Note that "let" is used with an object ("the children") and an infinitive ("play games"). The infinitive play is a bare infinitive in this case:

After the object after certain verbs, such as hear, see, make, let, there is no to: ... -bbc.co.uk

If you add "to", the sense of "let" switches to definition 3, with "to" heading up a purpose clause - but the context doesn't make sense. The phrase "to play games" becomes the purpose of "let[ting]" the children (hiring them out as if they were property). The letting is done as a form of entertainment for the "families". This would be a horrible thing were it to happen, and is most likely not the intent of the speaker.

Leaving out the word "to" worked in your favour this time.

  • 2
    Your "alternative" interpretation of let is interesting. Centuries ago, another possibility might have been that the children were subjected to blood-letting to prepare them for communal play (medical knowledge today favours mask-wearing over blood-letting! :) Jul 12 at 13:41
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers Yikes, all the more reason to avoid accidentally stubbing one's "to"es.
    – Lawrence
    Jul 12 at 13:50

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