What is a Let in Badminton?

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Anything can happen in badminton. But beyond jaw-dropping serves to mesmerizing rallies, play can come to a stop. When this happens, it’s known as a let.

According to the Badminton World Federation’s (BWF) Laws of Badminton, a let is a moment when the umpire (or, sometimes a player) calls a stop to the play. Play can stop for a variety of reasons ranging from a stuck shuttlecock to the disintegration of one. A let can also occur when both players commit faults or other odd circumstances that can disrupt the integrity and flow of a game. A let isn’t the same as a fault. Unlike faults, lets in badminton don’t penalize any player. Play simply stops and anything that transpired from the last service won’t count.

Read on to learn more about when heart-stopping action on the court can also stop!

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What Types of Lets Are in Badminton? 

There are several situations when lets can occur. Two people can call a let — the umpire and the player (in unofficial play). So when can either party call a stop to play?

We classify lets based on what caused them to take place. Some lets occur because of problems with the shuttlecock. Other lets take place owing to what the umpire sees as distractions. As well, there are stoppages to a rally as a result of faults on the part of both players. Accidental situations as well as players not being ready for a service can also warrant the stoppage of play.

Let’s talk about each in greater detail:

Let When a Shuttlecock Gets Caught or Breaks 

The flight of a shuttlecock is pivotal to the flow of a badminton game. For this reason, the presence of any disruptions to a shuttlecock’s flight warrants a stoppage. Stoppages related to the game shuttlecock can occur for two reasons.

According to the BWF, a let can be called when a shuttlecock gets stuck on the net and remains there. The umpire calls the stoppage after the shuttlecock gets back from a service. 

The other shuttlecock-related reason for a let is when the shuttlecock breaks. The BWF’s Laws of Badminton codify what is considered a broken shuttlecock. According to the Laws of Badminton, an umpire can consider a shuttlecock broken if he sees the base or tip separated from the feathered part of the shuttlecock.

Shuttlecock Suspended On The Net
A LET can be called if the shuttlecock gets stuck on the net.
Shuttlecock Disintegrates During a Rally
A LET can be called when the shuttlecock disintegrates in the middle of a match.

Let due to Distractions

The umpire can also call a stoppage to the play when he or she sees any distractions on the court. These distractions can be objects. But distractions can also be people like the coaches of the players on the court. Whatever these distractions are, the umpire needs to stop play to have these removed to ensure a fair and smooth game.

For example, an umpire can stop play temporarily if he or she sees that one of the coaches continues to call the attention of a player. Also, the umpire can halt play when an object (like an unruly fan’s soda bottle) flies onto the court mid-rally.

A LET can be called when there are distractions in the court.

Let due to Simultaneous Faulting of Both Server and Receiver

According to the BWF’s Laws of Badminton, an umpire can call a stop to the play when both players commit faults at the same time.

Here’s an example of this happening:

The umpire can fault a server for hitting the shuttlecock for service too early. At the same time, the receiver can be faulted for dropping his or her racket or distracting the server.

In this scenario, both players are faulted. The simultaneous faults committed by both the receiver and the server will prompt the umpire to stop play and call a let, which would result in a redo of the point.

Fault By the Server and Receiver
When the server hits a shuttlecock too early while the receiver distracts the server, both teams are faulted.

Let following Accidental Situations

Accidents and other unforeseen contingencies can happen in badminton. When they do, the umpire needs to put a rally on hold until the situation is addressed. Accidents can be injuries. They can also be equipment falling apart or malfunctioning mid-rally.

Equipment Malfunction (Collapsed Ceiling)
An equipment falling apart also calls for a LET.

Let Because of Early Service

Early service is when the server servers before the receiver is ready. When this happens, the umpire can call a let. Note that if the receiver attempts to hit the shuttle, the receiver will be deemed to have been ready and no let will be called.

Let when Line Judge’s View Becomes Obstructed

The BWF’s Laws of Badminton also state that in cases of unsighted line judges, an umpire can call a let. This is also the case when the umpire cannot make a call on the shuttlecock’s position as a result of the line judge’s obstructed view.

An umpire can call a LET when the line judge is unsighted.

What is the Most Common Let in Badminton? 

Not all of the lets mentioned earlier occur with the same regularity. Some are more common than others. The prevalence of certain lets come right down to the kind of badminton game being played — that is, professional, casual, or recreational.

In professional games, the most common type of let seems to be from receivers not being ready for the opposing player’s service. Casual players will likely get their games stopped due to foreign shuttlecocks entering their designated badminton court.

Receiver Not Yet Ready
An early service is the most common cause of a LET in a professional game.

In Professional Games: When the Server Serves Too Early

According to the BWF’s rules, both players — the server and receiver — need to be ready before play is initiated. A let can be called whenever a receiver isn’t ready for service.

Of course, if the umpire sees the receiver attempting to move in the direction of the served shuttlecock, he or she will consider the player ready. Hence, the umpire will allow play to resume.

In Casual Games: Foreign Shuttlecocks

Players will take casual games to indoor courts with several courts located adjacent to each other. This can lead to some shuttlecock “crossfire” that can cause interruption and of course confusion.

Foreign Shuttlecock
A shuttlecock that “crossfires” is a common cause of LET in casual games.

If two players are playing in one court, a shuttlecock from an adjacent court can fly towards the court they’re occupying. Due to the confusion, this event can cause, whoever is officiating can call a let.

On a side note, it doesn’t always have to be a foreign shuttlecock that lands on a court. As mentioned earlier, it can be any object not part of the game.

In Recreational Games: The Shuttlecock Bouncing-off (If Your Buddy is Feeling Generous) 

Not every badminton court is a pro-grade court, right? But don’t let that stop you from taking your games to badminton courts near other facilities like basketball hoops. Just be aware that your environment is fraught with objects that can stop your rallies or be used against you if you know what I mean.

While your environment may not be at par with BWF competition standards, you should still be playing by the book. And one of the rules states that you or your buddy needs to call a let when your shuttlecock bounces off anything other than the net.

For instance, if your shuttlecock bounces off the ceiling or a basketball hoop, you’ve got one of two options:

You or the person you’re reenacting the 2011 World Championship Final with needs to stop play. If you’re both honorable players, you can both agree to fault the hitter and penalize them. If you’re generous, you can call a let.

Now, on that last option, you might be thinking:

“Isn’t that the same thing as just calling a let? The play stops either way!”

This brings me to this next point:

What’s the Difference Between a Let and A Fault?

It’s easy to get these two kinds of stoppages mixed up. After all, they do result in the same thing — a halt in play. Despite the outcome they share, a let and a fault are two very different things, according to the BWF’s Laws of Badminton.

A let is a stoppage of play caused by unforeseen circumstances like accidents, broken or caught shuttlecocks, distractions, and simultaneous faults. When it comes to faults, these are often caused by players breaking rules involving service, rallies, and conduct. A let and a fault also differ in what happens to players after the call. A let warrants a restart of the play whereas a fault leads to a point for the other player.

Let’s (no pun intended) get into these differences in detail.


As mentioned earlier, unforeseen circumstances like accidents or foreign objects falling into the court lead to a let. On the other hand, a fault is the result of one or two players breaking one or more of the BWF’s rules.

For example, when the shuttlecock gets caught at the top of the net after a service return, the umpire calls a let. The game stops and restarts, and nobody is at fault.

But when a server hits the shuttlecock past the boundary line (which is against 13.3 of the BWF Laws of Badminton), it’s a different story. The server is penalized and loses the rally. 

Shuttlecock OUT
When the shuttlecock past the boundary line during service, the server loses the rally.


A let and fault will result in a temporary stop to the play. However, a fault results in a penalty. When one player commits a fault, the player loses a rally. As a result, a point goes to the other player. 

Who Can Make the Call

A let is often called for by an umpire. However, according to the rules, players can call them in certain situations like when there’s no umpire.

Only an umpire can call a fault. However, in games without an umpire, the players may call each other out on faults and the players would have to agree on the result for play to continue.

Badminton Umpire
Badminton Umpire

Key Takeaways

A let is a temporary halting of play. It occurs during unforeseen circumstances that disrupt the flow of play. A let results in a stoppage and reset of play as soon as distractions and other interruptions are handled.

Ultimately, lets occur due to accidents or factors beyond the control of players. This is what separates it from a fault which is caused by a player breaking the rules.

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