9

I only know "put out fire" before.
But today I used Google to translate it into Chinese and translated it back into English, it becomes "fight the fire".

Also, I tried translating the most natural Chinese that means "put out fire", I get "extinguishing".

What's their difference?

25

Put out the fire and extinguish the fire mean the same. "Put out" is the everyday expression, "extinguish" more formal or technical.

Fight the fire means try to put out the fire, or maybe sometimes just try to keep it under control. You can fight a fire without ever succeeding in extinguishing it.

  • 2
    I will add that "fighting a fire" has the implication that the fire is dangerous or uncontrolled. You would fight an apartment building fire but not a campfire, while you could put out or extinguish either one. – Nuclear Wang Dec 18 '17 at 14:53
17

"Put out the fire" is the most general and plain expression.

"To extinguish" means to bring to an end. It is more formal, and sounds a bit old fashioned.

As you can see here, "extinguish the fire" used to be much more common in the 19th century, but since 1880, "put out the fire" wins:

google ngram of these phrases

I think "extinguish" would likely have left the everyday English vocabulary completely, except that we have these things:

fire extingusher

which we call "fire extinguishers". To some degree, "extinguishing a fire" might imply using one of these devices.

You can also "douse a fire" — to extinguish or put out a fire by dumping water on it.

To "fight a fire" is different — it's the process of getting a large blaze under control. Like this:

fire fighters

You don't fight the fire from a candle or a cookout — unless something has gone badly wrong.

  • mattdm, You commented on the other answer saying it would be difficult for an English language learner to understand. I think you were right and that you should take your own advice. The question said "I only know 'put out fire' before." It is obvious from both the content of the question and the way it was written that he's going to have a hard time understanding this answer. @rjpond wrote a simple short answer that a learner has a good chance to understand. – Readin Dec 18 '17 at 0:40
  • 1
    To be fair, I think the other answer teaches a non-idiomatic expression. I don't think it's hard to understand. But I can also make this one simpler. – mattdm Dec 18 '17 at 1:35
  • 1
    @Readin well, answers are not only for OP, but also for future readers. Personally, for me who learns English as second language, this answer is more insightful than the accepted one. – Andrew T. Dec 18 '17 at 11:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.