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Let's: The American Sign Language (ASL) sign for "let's"

A person studying ASL asks:
How would you sign "let's" about stuff?  For example, "let's eat" instead of just eat, or "let's play" instead of just play, or stuff like that. Is there a separate sign for "let's"?  Or do you modify the verb in some way?


Dr. Bill responds: 
If we separate the contraction "let's" into its individual parts and signed the individual parts we would end up signing:
ALLOW + US but that ends up creating a meaning more along the lines of "lets" (without the apostrophe).


"Let's" with the apostrophe is generally used to introduce a suggestion or a request. (According to dictionary(dot)com).

In other words, "let's" is used to introduce something.  "Let's" is typically a way of directing attention and setting expectation (that a suggestion or request will be forthcoming).

The question of "How might we express the contraction let's in ASL?" becomes a question of: "How does an ASL signer get attention and direct that attention in a way that establishes an expectation that the signer is now going to make a suggestion or a request?"

Read that question again and wrap your mind around it:

 "How does an ASL signer get attention and direct that attention in a way that establishes an expectation that the signer is now going to make a suggestion or a request?"

Also we need to assume the suggestion or request is going to be for some sort of collaboration or shared action between the signer and the conversation partner or audience because the term "us" is embedded in the contraction "let's."

To get attention we might sign HEY.  We might do a bit of a chin raise a a form of "hey there!"  We might nudge someone with our elbow (very gently -- and only if we have close friendly relationship and are standing right next to each other facing the same way). We might tap that person on the shoulder or arm (appropriately).

We need to use a sign or set of signs (likely combined with context and non-manual markers) to imply that we would like some sort of shared action between the signer and the audience.

Some of the ways can indicate the concept of "we" or "us" is through the use of:
1.  eye-gaze
2. WE

3.  OUR

4.  WE-(numerical-incorporation, inclusive, 2 up to 9)

5.  context (for example, if I sign "YOU WANT GO MOVIE? it may be clear from context that I mean "with me")

We can indicate that we are making suggestion or request by raising our eyebrows and tilting our head while we indicate "we" or "us" in some way.

For example, raising the eyebrows while signing "WANT GO MOVIE YOU" is generally understood to to create a yes/no question with a meaning that would be similar to:  "Do you want to go to the movies?" or "Do you want to go to a movie?"

Suppose you raise your eyebrows and then sign "WANT GO MOVIE YOU" and near the end of that sentence you start nodding your head?  The nodding of your head would indicate that you want the other person to sign YES.

If the subtle or not so subtle nodding during that "yes/no" type question isn't sufficient to inspire your signing partner to action you can become more bold and start signing one or more of the following:



(nod) PROCEED! 

COME-ON!-(one handed come with me sign using a relaxed flat hand)


I could go on, there are likely a great many other ways that people use signing to create the meaning of "let's" but for now I'd like to share with you a joke or ASL pun you might see in some groups. 

A person might sign LETTUCE (as a joke) to mean "let's."  For example I've seen people at a church cookout sign "LETTUCE PRAY" as a pun just before actually going ahead and praying to bless the food.

Note: I share that for amusement you should NOT use LETTUCE in any sort of serious context to mean "let's."





This first person plural imperative form is used to express a proposal, suggestion, invitation, request, or some forms of advice or instruction.

"Let's" is typically followed by the base form of a verb, indicating an action or activity that the speaker proposes they and the listener(s) should engage in. For instance:

It can also be used with "see" or "suppose" in hypothetical or speculative statements:

"Let's see what happens if we mix these two chemicals." (speculation)
"Let's suppose we had unlimited resources. What would we do then?" (hypothetical)
Please note that while "let's" indicates a suggestion for a shared action, it doesn't always mean that the action will be carried out by all the parties involved. For example, in a classroom setting, a teacher might say, "Let's turn to page 32," but it is the students, not the teacher, who will actually turn the pages of their books.

Grammatical Considerations:

While "let's" is a contraction of "let us," it's not used in all contexts where "let us" might appear. For instance, in a sentence like "She insisted that she let us pay for dinner," "let's" would be inappropriate because it's not being used as a suggestion or proposal.

"Let's" can also be used in negative forms as "let's not," as in "Let's not discuss politics at dinner."



Some examples demonstrating different uses and functions of "let's":

01. "Let's consider all the options before making a decision." (consideration)
02. "Let's pretend we're on a deserted island." (pretend game or thought experiment)
03. "Let's see if we can fix this problem." (exploration or determination)
04. "Let's be honest with each other." (call for honesty or openness)
05. "Let's imagine a world without poverty." (hypothetical scenario)
06. "Let's wait and see what happens." (patience or caution)
07. "Let's meet at the park at 5 PM." (arrangement or plan)
08. "Let's start with the basics." (instruction or direction)
09. "Let's get this party started!" (enthusiastic beginning or action)
10. "Let's suppose you're right, what then?" (speculative scenario)
11. "Let's remember the reason we're here." (reminder)
12. "Let's keep this between us." (call for secrecy)
13. "Let's just say, it wasn't the best day." (euphemistic way of implying something)
14.  "Let's go to the movies." (proposal)
15.  "Let's try this new recipe." (suggestion)

16.  "Let's revisit this topic later." (proposal to delay or postpone discussion)

17.  "Let's aim for excellence in everything we do." (encouragement or motivation)
18.  "Let's cherish these moments together." (call for appreciation)
19.  "Let's ensure everyone has a voice in this decision." (advocating for inclusivity)
20.  "Let's work together to find a solution." (proposal for collaboration)


"Let's get started!" (enthusiastic encouragement)
"Let's give it a try." (cautious proposal)
"Let's put our heads together and come up with a solution." (call for collaboration)
"Let's not give up." (motivational statement)
"Let's make this happen." (confident declaration)

In most of these examples, "let's" is still functioning as a proposal or suggestion, but the nuances vary depending on context and the particular action being proposed.






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