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I know "let's" is short for "let us". For example,

Let's break for lunch. = Let us break for lunch.

But Oxford dictionary says "let’s [no passive] used for making suggestions or as a polite way of telling people what you want them to do"

Can I use "let's do something" when we want only one person to do something?

Say I have finished my dinner already but my daughter has not touched her dinner yet because she was playing while I was eating.

Can I say "let's eat! Lana! Hurry up!" (Lana is her name)?

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  • Which Oxford Dictionary? I can't find that definition online. It doesn't sound natural to me to use "Let's eat" to encourage a child to eat. Apr 10 at 15:56
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    I could see that used specifically when talking to a child, or as a very patronizing way to encourage someone - "come on, Maggie, let's brush our teeth, shall we?". But it's a rather non-standard use - let's generally implies doing something together or by both yourself and someone, even if your actual involvement is rather metaphorical (eg. a manager telling the team "Let's get this released tomorrow", in the sense of "I want you to release that tomorrow"). Apr 10 at 17:52
  • "Let's eat! Lana! Hurry up! We can't be late getting to your grandmother's house." It's fine. You can always trust that dictionary. Frankly, you can say whatever you like to your daughter. Would you say that in Vietnamese?//Let's eat, Lana. Aren't you hungry? Of course, one or more persons.
    – Lambie
    Apr 10 at 18:31
  • It's rather patronising, but it's sometimes done as a behaviour management device, avoid conflict by stating what "we" do, instead of telling what "you" must do.
    – James K
    Apr 10 at 20:08
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    It's a relatively "affected, patronising" usage if Let's [verb] is functioning as an "imperative" - speaker urging / cajoling addressee to [verb] in contexts where the speaker doesn't participate in [verbing]. Reminiscent of matron doing the ward rounds and asking patients How are we today? Best avoided, imho. Apr 10 at 22:57

2 Answers 2

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We sometimes use "us" when giving commands to "soften" them. By including yourself in those being told what to do, it sounds less like an order and more like a suggestion or idea.

So yes, arguably in this case the technically grammatically correct thing to say would be, "Eat!" or "You have to eat now".

Similarly, a boss telling implies not to be late for work might say, "We have to all start getting here by 9:00." Even if he himself has never been late, and as the boss he could probably get away with being late, he says "we" instead of "you" to make it less harsh.

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The Oxford Dictionary says "let’s [no passive] used for making suggestions or as a polite way of telling people what you want them to do"

Right, so whenever you make a suggestion or want to be polite, you can use it. Usually, with an active verb.

Let's eat. Let's leave. Let's shop. Let's stop. etc, etc, etc.

  • Listen, Kenny, let's eat before they let us out of jail because we have no money!
  • [in court] Counsel, let's adjourn until tomorrow so we can examine the new evidence.

If the father has finished eating and says:

"Let's eat! Lana! Hurry up! We can't be late getting to your grandmother's house."

Refer to the definition above. It's common for a parent to use we with children.

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    Both of your examples involve both the speaker and someone else following the suggestion (let us (both) eat, let us (all) adjourn). The OP is asking about cases where the speaker does not intend to follow the suggestion (telling someone "let's eat" when you've already finished and want just them to eat). Apr 10 at 19:40
  • @MaciejStachowski "Let's eat! Lana! Hurry up! We can't be late getting to your grandmother's house." Sure, a parent could use the plural Let's. Even if the father has finished.
    – Lambie
    Apr 10 at 19:44
  • @MaciejStachowski Nothing in the definition suggests it has to be more than one person: "let’s [no passive] used for making suggestions or as a polite way of telling people [or one person] what you want them to do per se.
    – Lambie
    Apr 11 at 16:45
  • Thing is, the OLD usage examples don't really match that definition, and other dictionaries disagree (Collins, Cambridge and others spell out explicitly "suggestion... that includes you and the other person or people"). I really don't think it's standard usage - if you tell me Let's go to the store!, I'm going to assume you're going too, not that you're just suggesting that I go. Apr 11 at 18:40
  • @MaciejStachowski Parents often use we to speak to a child. Just like a man might say about his wife: We are pregnant. Same idea.
    – Lambie
    Apr 11 at 18:50

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