Dec 18, 2012

Grammar Hammer: Are Your Trees Lit or Lighted?

PR Newswire's Cleveland operations center, in all its holiday carnage - uh, glory.

PR Newswire’s Cleveland operations center, in all its holiday carnage glory.

Christmas is just a week away. 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. 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 cubes has the most festive decoration).

Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.

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