The idiom 'let off the hook'


get/let someone off the hook - to allow someone to escape from a difficult situation or to avoid doing something that they do not want to do.
Ex. John’s agreed to go to the meeting in my place, so that lets me off the hook.


Bulldog gets let off the hook.

Some headlines – at my first glance - were a bit confusing:
Factory farms let off the hook for water pollution, activists say.
RFID let off the royalties hook
Microsoft and HP let off the hook : Mobile technology case thrown out

because of that unalterable let (with Past Participle = Present/Past Simple)
and I firstly mistook them.
But now I’m OK with it, as well.

Scooped, Bested (and let off the hook)
Didn’t understand the heading at all… but as its author isn’t native, let’s it pass without any excursion in semantics…

But what I want to ask.
My dictionary allows the idiom to be used in the meaning ‘to forgive (an offence)’.
It seems to be logical… but it didn’t give any example and I’ve failed to find any real one.

If you agree with my dictionary, could you give an example for that use? (to let (smb.) off the hook = to forgive an offence)?


Hi Tamara,

This idiom I imagine comes from letting the fish go back into the sea having caught it on your fishing line. Here goes with an illustrative sentence:

As the Judge was impressed by the previous good character of the defendant, he decided to let him off the hook and instead of sending him to prison, give him a suspended sentence instead.

Or slightly more lighthearted:

All right you can be excused doing the washing today as it’s your birthday but I’m not letting you off the hook tomorrow!


Thank you, Alan.
Yes, the analogy is obvious, and the indirect sense of the idiom is quite similar to the direct one.

I asked about ‘to forgive’ –would it be OK to use the idiom in this sense or you can’t imagine that use.


P.S. The reason I asked was: … f+the+hook
(if you can read Russian)


Yes, that all right. Said in a slightly playful way: I’ll let you off the hook, this time. Perhaps said by someone who didn’t bring flowers they expected.