English everyday – let alone

  • The doctors said he would never walk again, let alone run.
  • He barely looks 12 years old, let alone 15.

Let alone – nothing to do with being alone.

It is set phrase we use surprisingly often in English. But what does it mean? The Cambridge Dictionary says:

Let alone: Used to emphasize that something is more impossible than another thing.

More impossible? I see…..Let’s try another dictionary. Collins Cobuild dictionary says:

Let alone: is used after a statement, usually a negative one, to indicate that the statement is even more true of the person, thing or situation that you are going to mention next.

More true? Right then…

Let’s use some examples to work this out.

  • I can’t understand my children, let alone someone else’s.
  • I’ve never posted on Facebook, let alone Snapchat!
  • He couldn’t boil water, let alone cook a five course meal.

So first we have a negative statement “I can’t understand my children/ I’ve never posted on Facebook/he couldn’t boil water” which is quite hard to believe. But then we compare it to another statement, which is completely impossible.

For example:

a: My brother decided to make Mum a fancy birthday dinner yesterday.

b: That was nice of him.

a: Well, yeah, but he couldn’t boil water, let alone cook a five course meal.

b: So, what happened?

a: He burnt everything, and we had to order pizza.

So the first part of the sentence is true, and the second part compares it and emphasises it.

Can you make a sentence with let alone?

Like this? I want to help you get more confident with your English speaking. Get my free 5-day email course Speak Happy English and learn all about how to speak more confidently. Sign up here

Published by Abbie

English teacher, coach and writer. Helping English learners and teachers get more confident in their skills.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: