Dec 18, 2012

Grammar Hammer: Are Your Trees Lit or Lighted?

Lit vs Lighted title graphic

This blog post was updated on November 12, 2015.

Christmas is around the corner. Are your gifts purchased? Are your stockings hung? Have you procured the roast beast? What about the tree? Is it lit up for the holiday, or is it lighted?

Lighted vs. Lit is like the trick question of grammar rules.

Grammatically speaking, either word is correct because both words are past tense verbs and interchangeable as past participles. I hate to say it, but in most cases, it’s really going to come down to what sounds best to you.

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According to Grammarist, lit is favored for both uses outside the U.S. Lighted is usually used as an adjective, while lit is more often a verb.

The Grammarist site also includes a very interesting chart showing usage of both words throughout time. Currently, we’re favoring lit over lighted.

One key difference in using lit vs. lighted is that lit can refer to someone being drunk, where lighted cannot.

So your tree can be lit with a thousand lights, and your uncle can be lit after indulging in too much eggnog.

I’m currently working in a festively lighted place — or, if you prefer, a place that is lit up with the holiday spirit as my colleagues battle over which pod of cubicles has the most festive decorations!

Proper grammar is only one aspect of getting your holiday message across. Download our Buyer 2.0 Content Strategy Checklist for more storytelling tips you can use year-round.

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services with more than 20 years’ experience counseling brands on their content. Follow Cathy on Twitter @cathyspicer and tweet her your #grammargripes or email

5 Comments on Blog Post Title

­ Loren Strodtman 17:40 EST on Feb 27, 2015

Interesting! I sought your advice after I noticed Ayn Rand’s character “lighted a cigarette” and I began to wonder if I’d been ignoring proper English in favor of normal Midwest phrasing.

­ Pauline Keitt 21:48 EDT on Jun 27, 2015

Why the usage of done instead of finished?

­ Stan 11:08 EDT on Apr 11, 2016

What drives me mad is the improper use of "less" rather than "fewer". I suppose it doesn’t really matter how people speak, so why does it irk so much?

­ Jonnie Phillips 17:44 EDT on May 25, 2016

I have argued for years about," I lighted my cigarette". People think I am crazy. I read a book once where the Author wrote " I lighted a fire" and a few other places. This was in the 70ith. Glad I was partially right. I got a dictionary and looked it up. Their position was lighted, lit was a drunk person. Glad to get to the nitty gritty of the adjective vs. the verb

­ Jonnie Phillips 17:52 EDT on May 25, 2016

Another thing that bothers me is each and every. Each is per, every is all. If I had a dime for every time I told you this, I would be rich. I say, you would have one dime. If for each, you would have more than enough. Anybody else?

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