Lighted vs. Lit: What’s the Difference?

Verb conjugation is tricky in any language, and English is no exception. Many writers confuse variations of past tense for irregular verbs, like to light.

Lighted and lit are both past tense forms of this verb, but, in some cases, there is a preference for one form over another.

If you aren’t sure whether to choose lighted or lit in your writing, this article will clear up that conundrum for you.

What is the Difference Between Lighted and Lit?

In this article, I will compare lighted vs. lit. I will use each word in a sentence to demonstrate its proper context.

Plus, I will reveal a useful memory trick to help you decide whether lit or lighted is correct, depending on how you want to use the word.

To Light Conjugation

  • Past: I lit (I lighted is less common.).
  • Present: I light.
  • Future: I will light.
  • Participle: I have lighted. (I have lit is less common.).

When to Use Lighted

lighted versus litWhat does lighted mean? Lighted can be an adjective or a verb.

As an adjective, lighted refers to of or relating to being illuminated. Here are several examples of the word lighted as an adjective:

  • The happy couple strolled down the lighted path as evening darkened to night.
  • Milo the Adventurer led the way with his lighted torch.
  • The technician extinguished the lighted fuse seconds before the fireworks started.
  • In the dimly lighted space—the windows are shrouded by black curtains—Mr. Copperfield bounded from game to game. –The Wall Street Journal

As a verb, lighted forms the past participle form of the verb light, which means to illuminate or to set something on fire. Here are some examples:

  • I have already lighted the fire.
  • Have you lighted the gas lamps yet?

Lighted can also be used in the simple past, but lit is much more common today.

When to Use Lit

Definition of lit definition of lighted definitionWhat does lit mean? Lit is also a verb. Lit forms the simple past tense of the same verb, light, which again means to illuminate or to set something on fire.

For example,

  • Jackson lit the match on the sole of his shoe, then promptly dropped it into the snow.
  • Fireflies lit the meadow with a thousand incandescent freckles.
  • Arya lit the candle and said a prayer to the goddess of death.
  • As such, the work becomes a reference to Europe’s dark history, and the machines, lit in such a way to create monstrous shadows on the surrounding walls, clatter and screech discordantly. –The New York Times

Before the early 20th century, lighted was the preferred simple past tense of this verb, in addition to the past participle. Today, however, lit is preferred as a simple past.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define lit and define lightedHere is a trick to help you remember lit vs. lighted.

Both verb spellings are standard in English as simple past and past participle conjugations. As I mentioned above, lit is much more common for the simple past, and lighted is slightly more common for the past participle, but neither is incorrect in either case.

You can allow you ear to guide you for which to choose in your sentence.

If you are using the word as an adjective, however, lighted is generally preferred. Despite popular usage, lit is not a proper adjective.

Technically speaking, the phrase should be well-lighted.

  • A well-lighted room.

-not-

  • A well-lit room.

A helpful mnemonic to remember is that lighted rhymes with benighted, another adjective.

Summary

Is it lighted or lit? Both of these words have to do with illumination, but there is a slight difference in how they are used.

Lighted is an adjective, where it means of or related to being illuminated. It is also a verb, where it can function as the simple past and past participle form of the verb to light.

Lit can function as the simple past tense and past participle for the verb to light. Even though it is frequently used as an adjective, this usage is incorrect.

Since lighted rhymes with benighted, another adjective, you can remember to always use it as that part of speech.

Failing that, you can always reread this article for a quick refresher.

[i]
[i]