Negation : Let's not talk about it / Don't let's .... / Let's don't ....

soulpaolo

Senior Member
Italian
<< Topic: Don't let's. >>

Hi,
Is it correct to use this form instead of "let's not":confused: ?
 
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  • GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Kenneth Garland said:
    It's correct in informal speech. I'm not sure how I can explain which one to use.
    I would argue, that at least in AE, it is wholly incorrect, and if I were to hear it, I would not think the speaker to be a very educated person.

    That's not to say it is not heard from time to time. But simply because something is "heard" does not mean it is correct.
     

    Kenneth Garland

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    Two good friends are having a disagreement. One is afraid the argument is getting serious and says: "Don't let's quarrel about this!". That sounds more natural in that context than "Let's not quarrel", as the friend really doesn't want the disagreement to turn into anger.
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Kenneth Garland said:
    "Don't let's quarrel about this!". That sounds more natural in that context than "Let's not quarrel", as the friend really doesn't want the disagreement to turn into anger.
    That use must be particular to BE, then. I still content one would not hear that in an AE discussion, even in the most informal of contexts.

    Oops - we were both cross-posting at the same time! No. It's not AE at all!
     

    DavyBCN

    Senior Member
    UK - English
    GenJen54 said:
    That use must be particular to BE, then. I still content one would not hear that in an AE discussion, even in the most informal of contexts.

    Oops - we were both cross-posting at the same time! No. It's not AE at all!
    Both are perfectly acceptable and common in BE, although I agree that "don't let's" looks very ugly in written form.
     

    ojyram

    Senior Member
    USA English (Learning Spanish)
    KG--Your example of the friend saying, "Don't let's quarrel about this" is the rare occasion on which I would find "Don't let's" not only acceptable, but very powerful.

    Reversing the normal word order gets the listener's attention and jars his brain a little, interrupting the arguing process momentarily and providing an opportunity to change direction.

    Reversing the normal word order also offers a subliminal encouragement to reverse or change behavior or position, especially if it is accompanied by another change (such as voice pitch, rate of speaking, facial expression, or body posture).
     

    Kenneth Garland

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    That's a good point about non-verbal cues, ojyram - I would expect the tone of voice in this example to be very conciliatory (stress on the "Don't"), and probably the body language would match ('shrink' slightly, look up at other person with a bit of smile), etc.
     

    A90Six

    Senior Member
    England - English.
    Don't let's is not a something I would say. I think it is correct and acceptable, but would have considered it old fashioned until my enlightening Google search.

    It is still very much in use in virtually all media forms.


    Here are a few nuggets I dug up, from both sides of the Atlantic:

    Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight
    (Book Title) - An African Childhood - Alexandra Fuller.

    Don't Let's Start
    (Song Title) - They Might Be Giants, 1989.

    Don't Let's Be Beastly To The Germans
    (Song Title) - Noel Coward, 1943

    Don't Let's Talk About Lisa
    (Song Title) - Lonestar.

    Hold on
    Shake hands
    Don't let's fight, yeah
    Let's be friends
    (Song Lyrics) Hold On - Freddie Mercury, 1986.


    "Oh, Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars."
    (Film) Now, Voyager, 1942

    "Well, let's pretend to be, anyway," insisted the Story Girl. "Don't let's think of parting. Let's think instead of how much we've laughed this last year or so. I'm sure I shall never forget this dear old place. We've had so many good times here."
    (Book) The Golden Road - Lucy Maud Montgomery.

    Fiorello: No, I don't like it.
    Driftwood: You don't like what?
    Fiorello: Whatever it is. I don't like it.
    Driftwood: Well, don't let's break up an old friendship over a thing like that. Ready?...
    (Film) A Night At The Opera [The Marx Brothers]



    I seem to recall that Enid Blyton was taken to task by grammarians for her use of 'Let's do!', but as far as I am aware don't let's and let's not are acceptable contractions.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    If I heard "don't let's" I would immediately assume the person was British, schooled in British English, or putting on British airs. :) It makes perfect sense when I hear it, but it definitely sounds "foreign."
     

    mzsweeett

    Senior Member
    USA
    USA, American English
    Wow,

    If I were to hear "don't let's" I'd end up not listening to another word.... I agree with Genjen.... it has to be a BE thing because anyone who would say that in my neck of the woods woud be corrected for poor grammar!!

    OJY also makes a point that one does not usually think of but rather it happens simultaneously in the mind.......

    But that also goes to show how differently BE and AE have become... it is a very interesting thing indeed to see it so proper in one sense and the compete opposite in the other!!

    Ahhh what a language. BTW... I am so glad to be back posting again!!! DUNDUNDUN watch out.... here I come! ;)

    Sweet T.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    "Don't let's" is perfectly correct in my idiom, and I believe ojyram's point about it being more "powerful" than "let's not" comes closest to my own take on the expression.

    It is a little peremptory, and expresses a certain weariness or impatience-- the tone taken with this expression usually implies a scolding-- the user is nipping someone's impertinence in the bud.

    "Don't for a minute imagine that involving me in [whatever] is an option"-- something like that.

    Far from showing a lack of education, the expression strikes me as a bit imperious. "Let's not" is a suggestion about coming to a consensus about not doing something. "Don't let's" is a command about not even considering discussion on the matter.

    Finally, the expression conveys an icy sarcasm. "Don't let's get chummy" is something a haughty young woman might say when offered a hand from a stranger.
    .
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Foxfirebrand - I'm curious about your background. Although I've heard "don't let's" both in person and in film/TV/etc., it has always been someone from Great Britain or schooled in British English who has used the expression.

    Where did you pick up this expression, and who have you heard using it?

    I'm not doubting at all that it's comfortable for you. I'm just wondering if you spent a lot of time around people schooled in British English in one of those "far-flung places" you hail from. :)

    As an aside, I have heard Americans use the expression, "Don't let us...", but always as a request. "Don't let us keep you", for example. The two contractions used together, though - "don't" and "let's" - is something I've never heard from someone raised in the U.S.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    JamesM said:
    I'm not doubting at all that it's comfortable for you. I'm just wondering if you spent a lot of time around people schooled in British English in one of those "far-flung places" you hail from.
    Point taken, James. I do have a slight streak of BE/Scots in my speech, but from parental idiom rather than place. My father spoke "standard" midwestern AE, but my mother came from fairly uppity British stock who corrected any deviations from the proper use of language. I say words like scone a little "funny," especially when you consider the the first and most imprinted of my "farflung places" was the Deep South. And as I've mentioned (and demonstrated) before, I've been known to "hie myself" and say "withal" without the "where."

    I thought of mentioning my hybridization as I wrote that post, but felt it was going on a bit long.
    .
     

    Victoria32

    Senior Member
    English (UK) New Zealand
    JamesM said:
    If I heard "don't let's" I would immediately assume the person was British, schooled in British English, or putting on British airs. :) It makes perfect sense when I hear it, but it definitely sounds "foreign."
    I am in New Zealand, had British parents (well, my mother was of Scots descent) and have used 'Don't let's"...

    That being said, it does sound old fashioned...
     

    Guill

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    Hello,

    How do you say this in negative form ? Here are some of my guesses but I don't know which one is the right one.

    Let's not talk about it anymore
    Don't let's talk about it anymore
    Let's don't talk about it anymore

    Of course I could say "No way of talking about it anymore", but how do you say it with "let's" ? :)
     

    grubble

    Senior Member
    British English
    Hello,

    How do you say this in negative form ? Here are some of my guesses but I don't know which one is the right one.

    1. Let's not talk about it anymore :tick:
    2. Don't let's talk about it anymore
    3. Let's don't talk about it anymore :cross:

    Of course I could say 4. "No way of talking about it anymore", but how do you say it with "let's" ? :)
    2. is possible but doesn't sound idiomatic to me.
    4. doesn't sound like anything a native speaker would say.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Moderator note: I've merged this thread with an earlier one which has some useful discussion on the same construction.
     

    Tristano

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    "Don't let's" sounds perfectly fine to me, though formal and British, and I hear it quite often in audio recordings (listening to a Ruth Draper monologue right now) and on British television programs.
     

    Pertinax

    Senior Member
    BrE->AuE
    "Don't let's" is more emphatic than "Let's not". I use it quite a lot, mainly when pleading with my wife.

    "Don't let's take the children with us this time!"
    "Don't let's buy a large car!"

    I wouldn't describe my tone as "imperious" (pace foxfirebrand). Indeed, my wife commonly gets the last word. But it emphatically stakes out my position.
     

    grubble

    Senior Member
    British English
    ...
    1. Let's not talk about it anymore
    2. Don't let's talk about it anymore
    3. Let's don't talk about it anymore

    Of course I could say "No way of talking about it anymore", but how do you say it with "let's" ? :)
    I think two threads have been merged. On reading what was said in 2006 it seems that opinions differ.

    Instead of going by what is generally heard in a particular part of the world, let us look at the grammar of the three versions:

    1. Let's not talk... Everyone on this thread has confirmed this to be acceptable so I will not discuss it further.

    2. Don't let's talk... when expanded becomes "Do not let us talk..." Grammatically, there is no problem with this because it has the same form as "Do not make us talk", "Do not let him go", both of which are perfectly normal constructions.

    3. Let's don't talk... becomes "Let us do not talk..."

    It is hard to parse this because the main possibilities are:
    (a) "do not talk" is imperative in which case we are saying "Let us! Do not talk!" or
    (b) an active form in which case we are saying "Let (us do not talk)" This is impossible because "us" cannot be the subject of the verb.
    (c) A third possibility is "Let us do (not talk)" but the 'rules' of English demand that "not talk is then a noun phrase so it would be better to say "Let us do (not talking). In fact this last one is the negative of "Let us do [some] talking]" and, as such, it is correct but not the phrase we started with.

    So, on purely grammatical grounds I would argue that 1 and 2 are acceptable but 3 is not. Disclaimer: Others may argue differently!

    Note: "No way of talking about it any more" sounds strange (1) because the 'of' indicates that they couldn't talk even if they wanted to, and (2) because it doesn't have an active verb. You could however say "There's no way we're talking about it any more."
     
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    ribran

    Senior Member
    English - American
    I thought it was well established that (3) [let's don't talk...] was the American equivalent of British "don't let's talk." Is the former only used in the South?

    EDIT: Having read over the thread more carefully, I get the impression that "don't let's" isn't stigmatized in BrE-speaking countries like "let's don't" is in the US.
     
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    JamesM

    Senior Member
    The odd thing about "let's don't" to me is that it doesn't work grammatically (for me) when the contractions are removed, while "don't let's" does. That's why it sounds wrong to me.

    "Do not let us talk about this." :tick: ("Don't let's")
    "Let us do not talk about this." :cross: ("Let's don't")

    To see the difference in word order in another context:

    "Do not let us get out of the house without your phone number." :tick:
    "Let us do not get out of the house without your phone number." :cross:
     
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    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Here's another opinion on the issue. From The Columbia Guide to Standard American English by Kenneth G. Wilson, article "let, don't let's, let's, let's don't, let's not":


    There are three negative idioms: Let's not stay, Don't let's stay, and Let's don't stay. All are Standard, although Let's don't is more typically American than Don't let's, which is more typically British.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    So you haven't heard it before, James? :D

    I don't use it, but it's very familiar.
    No, I've heard it. I wouldn't say it's common around me but I've heard it in the speech of people from other parts of the country. I was just addressing the "stigmatized" comment. I think it's stigmatized because it's non-standard and colloquial and has a syntax that doesn't quite work grammatically. :)

    edit: Ah! Just saw mplsray's quote from the Columbia guide. I'm surprised that it's considered by them to be standard English.
     

    Salbina

    Senior Member
    US
    Italiano
    I found Let's don't (do this and that) in The Lord of the rings and it sounded very strange to me, so I ended up searching in Wordreference if it could be an archaic or very literary form, as there are many in the book.

    It really strikes me that it is considered an American version of Don't let's, as The Lord of the rings is definitely British and full of words and expressions typical of BE (and old English as well).

    I just thought it might be interesting to share that the separation between Don't let's in BE and Let's don't in AE could be less sharp than we think. :)
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Hi Salbina,

    Can you quote a complete sentence from the novel where Tolkien uses "Let's don't..."? It sounds strange to me too, but not archaic.
    I haven't read The Lord of the Rings.
     

    Salbina

    Senior Member
    US
    Italiano
    Hi Velisarius,

    after checking The Lord of the rings for quotes, I've realized I messed things up.

    It's the two forms Don't let's and Let's not that Tolkien uses, not Let's don't, pretty much what had been previously said in the thread. Sorry about that, I might need to remove my previous post, I guess.

    Anyway, here are some quotes:

    1. Bilbo and Frodo are at Rivendell, Bilbo asks to see the ring again, Frodo refuses, there is some tension in the air but then Bilbo says "Don't let's worry about it now" and then goes on asking Frodo news from the Shire and so on.

    2. The Company is unsuccessfully trying to climb the Caradhras, Gandalf suggests Aragorn to consider the secret way they had discussed about before (Moria), but Aragorn, who is contrary to entering Moria, answers "Let us not speak of it again. Not yet.".

    3. Treebeard says to Merry and Pippin "I almost dislike you both, but do not let us be hasty" as soon as he meets them in Fangorn.

    4. "Let us not darken our hearts", says Gandalf to Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn when they meet again in Fangorn after he fell in Moria.

    5. On their way to Minas Morgul, Sam wonders where they will find water and asks Frodo if Orcs drink, and Frodo answers "Do not let us speak of that. Such drink is not for us".

    I am not sure I would ever be able to properly use this kind of don't let's/let's don't forms, I find it hard to grasp the different nuance.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Thanks for checking:).

    "Don't let's worry about it now" - sounds strangely modern and colloquial. I would use the alternative, "Let's not worry about it now".
    (In Tolkien-speak I would have expected something like "Let us not concern ourselves with it now".)

    "Let us not speak of it again" - these all sound more old-fashioned and formal: it's the sort of language one expects to hear from Tolkien.
    "Do not let us be hasty"
    "Let us not darken our hearts"
    "Do not let us speak of that"

    I don't think there's any real difference in nuance between "Don't let's..." and "Let's not..."

    Don't let's argue about this any more/Let's not argue about this any more.

    They mean the same to me, but I would use the second.
    ("Let's don't argue about it any more" sounds a bit odd to me - see post #29 too - but some people use it.)
     

    Salbina

    Senior Member
    US
    Italiano
    Thanks for checking:).

    "Don't let's worry about it now" - sounds strangely modern and colloquial. I would use the alternative, "Let's not worry about it now".
    (In Tolkien-speak I would have expected something like "Let us not concern ourselves with it now".)
    )
    You're welcome. :) I thought the same about "Don't let's worry about it now". I thinks it's because it's two hobbits speaking, and they usually have a "lower" lexicon than other peoples (elves and men in particular). Even in the last sentence it's again two hobbits, but Frodo is always more formal and polite than the others.

    I enjoy hugely reading Tolkien in English, because even not being a native speaker (I am Italian) you can really appreciate that he was a linguist and knew how to use language and different registers with incredible precision and propriety. Apart from the plot, which is of course a great absorbing tale, that is another reason why I can never get tired of re-reading The Lord of the rings. :)
     
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