Who sounded the fire alarm?

Who rang the fire alarm?

What's more common out of the two "rang" or "sounded"?

  • Idiomatically: "Who set off the fire alarm?" Unless, perhaps, there is an old-fashioned fire bell which you physically strike or shake. Mar 21, 2020 at 12:06
  • Yes, you ring a bell by striking or shaking it, but generically you set off or trigger an alarm system. Mar 21, 2020 at 12:57
  • So @WeatherVane do none of them work? Mar 21, 2020 at 17:32
  • The first one is better, if there is an actual bell. The second is slightly ambiguous because "who rang..." can mean "who telephoned..." and I suggest is better as "who rang the fire bell?" Mar 21, 2020 at 17:35

1 Answer 1


"Rang" implies that there is actually some bell which somebody is (themselves) ringing. If the fire alarm is actually a physical bell which somebody needs to ring (for example, in a historical context, before they had modern fire alarms), then this makes sense. If we're talking about triggering an electronic alarm system, however, this verb doesn't make as much sense.

"Sounded" says essentially that somebody is making a sound or noise. Again, if somebody is physically ringing a bell or something, or they're calling out "Fire! Fire!" with their voice, etc, then "sounded" also works. Again, however, this verb isn't generally used with modern electronic alarms, etc.

("Sounding the alarm" can also be used metaphorically to just mean alerting people to a situation, without necessary any actual "alarm" device or system being activated.)

If we are talking about more modern alarm systems (where somebody starts them going but then they keep going on their own without anyone's help), then I think more commonly people would tend to use other verbs that reflect a "triggering" action, like:

Who triggered the fire alarm?
Who set off the fire alarm?
Who initiated the fire alarm?

In many cases, alarm systems are initiated by pulling on a little lever on the wall, so another common thing to say in those cases is:

Who pulled the fire alarm?

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