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This is from the BBC Proudly Single

But India remains a largely patriarchal society where more than 90% of marriages are arranged by family and women have little say in who they marry - leave alone whether they want to marry at all.

The expression in bold in the above text "leave alone" seemed unusual to me, because I think it should have been "let alone". Leave alone means "not to disturb" someone. I checked this on some dictionaries.

Can "leave alone" or "let alone" be used interchangeably in this sense? (not in the sense of "not disturbing someone?")

5 Answers 5

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Collins Dictionary, predominantly British English, notes in its entry for 'let alone' that 'leave alone' is a US English alternative.

Certainly, 'leave alone' is not used in British English, so you might wonder why it is on the BBC news site. You'll notice that the article was written by a correspondent in New Delhi. The BBC still has a 'world service' and many news articles written about overseas are from correspondents in those territories. So it would seem 'leave alone' is not unusual in some dialects of English.

As both variations could have other uses I would not trust any data from ngrams to show trends on this.

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The Free dictionary has two meanings for let alone.

  1. To stop bothering someone or something.

  2. Not to mention.

The Free Dictionary has only one meaning for leave alone, and it is equivalent to the first meaning of let alone.

The meaning used in the question is the second meaning of let alone, so leave alone is incorrect here.

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  • Sorry, but "leave alone" is an uncommon equivalent to "not to mention", at least in New England. You might find someone saying something like, "He was puzzled, leave alone confused." It's used as a bit of fancying up the phrase. Jul 1, 2023 at 2:37
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I, as a Canadian, have only ever heard British speakers say "leave alone" where I would say "let alone" or "never mind" So if you've learned American English, that would explain why you're not familiar with it.

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leave alone virtually never occurs in AmE as an alternative to let alone with the sense of disregarding, not to mention, never mind...

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But it's not at all common in BrE either...

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Such use of idiomatic leave alone1 sounds dialectal / dated, so I suggest learners should avoid it in favour of "mainstream" let alone.


1 It wasn't easy to find a written example in Google Books from a credible native Anglophone. Most of the writers have very "non-Anglophone" names. It took me a couple of minutes to find this one...

Now, there is nothing mysterious about all this (leave alone whether the theory of value that it depends on is defensible)...

...written by Norman Geras (professor emeritus of government at Manchester University). But even though I'm sure he was a native Anglophone, it may be significant that he was born in Zimbabwe (back when it was Rhodesia).

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'Leave' is an acceptable alternative to 'let' in that expression.

4.I.4 To let or leave alone: lit. to leave to himself; to leave persons or things as they are, or to their own efforts; to abstain from interfering or having to do with.

Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition

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