“Lighted” or “Lit”?

13

Which is the correct past tense of the verb lightlighted or lit?

Easy. Both.

There are two accepted ways to create the past tense of light. And this time, it doesn’t matter if you are American or British. You may choose which you prefer:

  • We lit the Christmas candles.
  • We lighted the Christmas candles.

English speakers have preferred one or the other over time as demonstrated by the N-gram charts below. The first compares the appearance of lit to lighted in American publications, the second in British works.

"Lit" vs. "Lighted" in American Publications

"Lit" vs. "Lighted" in British Publications

 

Although lit is currently preferred as a verb, lighted is relatively common as an adjective (or past participle):

The recently lighted campfire lit our faces with a warm glow.

One of the more famous uses of lighted is in the title of Ernest Hemingway’s short story, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.” But as the n-gram chart shows, well-lit has replaced well-lighted as the more common compound adjective.

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About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

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  3. Shashikant
    Shashikant11-11-2015

    I feel- the pyre is lit and light is lighted. Something to put on fire is lit, and to put on the light is “lighted” . Any comments? Please email to dabadeshashikant602@gmail.com

  4. Elaine Togeretz
    Elaine Togeretz12-26-2013

    Makes me think of the past tense of shine: shone or shined? I’m from Ontario, Canada, where we say “shone” (pronounced “shawn”), but more and more I hear “shined”.
    And what is the past tense of fight? Faught, right? But I’ve heard “fit”, as in “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho”.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko12-27-2013

      Yes, I’m thinking about writing an article that includes all of these tricky past tense verbs: shine, light, sneak, leap, etc. In almost every case, there are two acceptable options. This is true with shine . Shone is preferred, unless you are using shine to mean “polish to a luster,” but shined is accepted as an alternative in at least several dictionaries.

      Fought, however, is still the only recognized past form of fight. Fit is non-standard and likely a regionalism (I’ve never heard it). :)

  5. Merri Larsen
    Merri Larsen12-25-2013

    How fun to view this in a new light, Brian! Either way sounds right to me. But the word ‘lighted’ sounds more poetic. If Hemingway had chosen this title, “A Clean, Well-Lit Place,” something would be lost.

    As a super fan of short stories, this one is among my favorite. Now I’m off to find a clean, well-lighted place to read it again.

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