Word Choice – Light Versus Lit

A BizWritingTip reader wrote: “Regarding versions of the past tense of the word ‘light,’ I was taught to write: ‘He lit the candle.’ But I have often seen in books: ‘He lighted the candle.’ Which is correct?”

BizWritingTip response:? We were taught (in the days of the dinosaurs) that lighted was used when a fixture was involved; lit was used on all other occasions.


He lighted the lamp.
He lit the candle.
Her smile lit up the room.

Today, the words are interchangeable. “I lit the fire.” “I lighted the fire.” Both are considered correct.

Note: If the word is being used as an adjective, lighted is more commonly used.


The runner held a lighted torch.