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The Phrasal Verb 'Let Up' Explained

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

A detailed explanation of how to use the phrasal verb 'let up' correctly like a native speaker.

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Hello and welcome to this instalment of Phrasal Verbs Explained; a blog which aims to help you understand English phrasal verbs in a clear and coherent way, so that you can use them to improve your language level and sound more like a native speaker. If you want to receive new blog posts directly email every week, please sign up on the form at the end of the post.

The phrasal verb 'let up' is a lesser known phrasal verb but is nevertheless a great one to have in your vocabulary as it can be used in many different situations. In the post we'll look at its three different meanings and how they are used by native speakers along with some additional tips for you. Read on to find out more....


Number of meanings


Literal meaning


Idiomatic meaning




Past forms

Let up / Let up

British or American


For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here



To begin, let's take a look at the individual components of 'let up' and what they mean individually as this can often help with the phrasal verb meanings.

Our main verb is the irregular verb 'to let', which you will probably know as it is a very common English verb with various meanings, however perhaps the main meaning, and the meaning that is relevant for the phrasal verb 'let up', is to permit or to allow something.

We then have the prepositional particle up, meaning to move from a lower point to a higher point or away from the ground ⬆️ ⬆️ ⬆️. So, now we have that in mind, the first of the meanings of 'let up' should be nice and easy for you...


MEANING 1: Literal

CEFR Level

B1 - Intermediate



​Transitive or Intransitive

Transitive (has a direct object)



Potential synonyms

Let in, allow up

Commonly used with


Imagine that you want to go for dinner in an exclusive restaurant, which is on the second floor of a building. You arrive at the door of the building (downstairs) and ask if there is availability for a table to have a meal. The staff then check the bookings and how busy they are in order to make a decision about whether or not to let you up to the restaurant.

The above example is exactly how we use 'let up' in a literal sense in English, i.e. to allow someone to come or go up to a place (normally a room).

When used literally, 'let up' is separable and the direct object, normally a person, goes between the two words. Please note that it does not go afterwards.

As you can imagine, this usage is limited to very specific situations and often an alternative such as 'let in' can be used. 'Let up' is a little bit more specific than 'let in' though, as it includes extra spatial information, so if you can ever use it, it will help your English to sound a little more like a native speaker.

Examples of usage....

We tried to get into the club upstairs but they were only letting people up who they knew.
The police officers refused to let him up the stairs.


For those of you who are interested in combat sports such as martial arts or karate, it is possible to 'let someone up' if your opponent is on the floor and you are in a dominant position and you allow them to stand up again.


MEANING 2: To become less intense or to stop (Idiomatic)

CEFR Level

​B2 - Upper Intermediate





Potential synonyms

To stop, to die down, to peter out, to subside, to decrease, to diminish, to slow down, to ease, to ease off

​Commonly used with

Rain, bad weather, yet

So, now we come to the second and most common meaning of the phrasal verb 'to let up', which means to become less intense, to slow down or to stop completely.

When native speakers use 'let up' in this way, we are talking about something which we have no control over to make stop or less intense. This is normally (but not always) something negative, most commonly perhaps bad weather such as rain, a storm or snow, which can cause problems or prevent us from doing things. Aside from weather, other nouns that are commonly used with 'let up' are pressure, attacks, work, emails, Covid etc.

From a grammatical perspective, 'let up' used in this way has no direct object (intransitive) and so cannot be separated. Moreover, it often appears at the end of a sentence.

Examples of usage....

It has been snowing for 24 hours and there is no sign of it letting up. INTENDED MEANING: The snow has been falling for a day and does not appear to be getting less intense or stopping.
The pressure I am under at work never seems to let up. INTENDED MEANING: The person is always under pressure at work and it never eases.
The football match will start as soon as the rain lets up. INTENDED MEANING Once the rain starts to ease or stops, the football match will start.


As you may be aware, English native speakers really love creating nouns from verbs and verbs from nouns (a practice called nouning and verbing) and the English language is full of these linguistic creations. 'Let up' is no exception to this and can also be used as a noun. The meaning is exactly the same, however we need to add the word "in" when we want to talk about the thing that we want to stop or reduce in intensity.

Examples of usage....

There has been no let-up in the rain today! INTENDED MEANING: It has been raining heavily all day.
As soon as there is a let-up in the storm, we will go to the shop. INTENDED MEANING: Once the storm starts to ease, we will go to the shop.

MEANING 3: To stop doing something (idiomatic)

​CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper Intermediate





Potential synonyms

​To stop, to reduce, to slow down, to ease

Commonly used with

Efforts, pressure, on

The third and final usage of 'let up' that we will consider in this post is linked to the second meaning that we have just looked at and primarily means to stop or reduce doing something you are doing. This is specifically when the action that you are doing has been intense or done with determination.

The difference with this second meaning is that in this case the person can choose to stop or reduce the intensity of the action.

Think of a high profile police investigation where the police actively seek to solve a crime over a long period of time but due to a lack of evidence and results, they decide to reduce their efforts. In such a situation we might say "that after a long period of time the police have let up on the investigation". We could also say the opposite of this i.e. "that the police have not let up on their investigation".

If we let up on someone rather than something, it means that we treat them in a more lenient or less severe way than we were treating them before. It could also be used to say that you are being nicer to someone than you were in the past.

As you can see from the above police example, the additional preposition 'on' is required here before the indirect object noun.

Examples of usage....

The company has let up on its standards since the new management took over. INTENDED MEANING: Since their takeover the company is not enforcing its standards like it was beforehand.
The teacher never let up on the students and made sure that they always worked hard. INTENDED MEANING: The teacher always applied pressure on the students to work hard.
Bayern Munich didn't let up on their opponents for the whole game. INTENDED MEANING: Bayern Munich played well and applied pressure on the opponents for the whole match.


Memorise and use the sentences below in conversations to help your English come across as more natural and fluent....

As soon as the [noun] lets up, we will.....
[Person] just won't let up!
There has been no let-up in the [noun].
I think you should let up on [person].
I will never let up until I [verb].
With a bit of luck the [weather] will let up later today.

EXERCISE (Answers at the end of the post)

Re-write the following sentences using 'to let up'.

  1. The security guard isn't allowing anyone else into the bar upstairs now.

  2. This hot weather is showing no signs of going away anytime soon.

  3. The emails have not stopped coming in all day.

  4. MI5 have said that they will not stop their investigation until they catch the perpetrator.

  5. My manager has finally started to be a bit more lenient with me.

  6. I am not going to stop badgering* you until you finish the work.

*To badger is a verb that means to repeatedly ask someone to do something.



  • Has there ever been a time when you have had to cancel plans because the bad weather would not let up?

  • Were your parents lenient with you when you were growing up? If not, do you wish they had let up on you a bit more? Why?

  • Have you ever said that you will never let up on a project or future plan? Did you ever let up on it or did you see it through?


EXERCISE ANSWERS (Other variations may be possible)

  1. The security guard isn't letting anyone else up to the bar upstairs now.

  2. This hot weather is showing no signs of letting up anytime soon.

  3. The emails have not let up all day.

  4. MI5 have said that they will not let up on their investigation until they catch the perpetrator.

  5. My manager has finally started to let up on me a bit.

  6. I am not going to let up on you until you finish the work.


That is the end of today's post. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it and I sincerely hope that it has helped you a little bit further on your English learning journey.

If you found the post useful, please go ahead and share it, so together we can help as many English learners as possible to understand and master these tricky phrasal verbs.

Also, please leave any comments, questions, suggestions or examples of 'let up' below. I really love reading them. Don't forget to sign up below if you want to receive posts by email first. See you next time!

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