• Let me go. / Let me do it. / Let me see, try, etc.

Q1. Which meaning are these more close to? "Allow me to go, do, see?" or "I'll go, do, see, etc?" There are two reasons I doubt this:

  1. As far as I've seen, most of these LET-ME imperatives didn't seem to ask for some permission.
  2. As for Let's, it is actually Let us, but it's not necessarily asking for someone to allow.

Q2. To see LET-imperatives of other perspectives, third and second-person ones, like

  1. Let the sun rise.
  2. Let's do this.

These let don't necessarily mean "allow someone to do" but actually work as kind of "auxiliary verbs." Why and from when did this happen?


Q1. All of your bulleted examples are imperatives, demanding permission to go, do, see, and try from the absent but understood second person. This usage is a very old part of the language, taken straight from Old English.

Q2. You're right about the auxiliary nature of "let" in these examples. The word essentially turns the bare infinitive (here, "[to] rise," and "[to] do") into third and first person senses (here, respectively) of the verb. As an auxiliary, "let" introduces an aspect of defiance or suggestion (here again, respectively). The OED records the first appearance of this usage in the early 1400s.

I don't think you'll get an answer to "Why is this an idiom?"

  • I don’t see any semantic difference between “Let me see” and “Let us go”; there is no implied second person in “Let me see” as there is in “Let me go”. Jun 17 '15 at 10:15
  • There is no difference between "Let me see" and "Let us go." They're imperatives and mean the addressee should allow seeing and going. The difference is between "Let us go!" addressed to someone who's holding your arm and your friend's and "Let's go" addressed to your friend when you're ready to go to lunch.
    – deadrat
    Jun 17 '15 at 10:30
  • I meant “Let us go” in the cohortative sense, not the imperative sense. I should probably have written “Let’s go” to make that clear. There is, however, no addressee in “Let me see” (as in “Now where did I put it? Let me see, I had it when I came in…”, not as in “I can’t make out what’s going on—move over and let me see!”). “Let me see” is entirely parallel to “Let’s go” in that sense. There is no demanding of permission from anyone—note especially that it is frequently used in the plural also, as “Let’s see”. Jun 17 '15 at 10:47

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