I know you can use the following sentence to describe it like this:

The wood was burning in the fireplace.

But does there exist a single adjective that could replace "on" in this sentence:

The fireplace was on.

I'm thinking it could be replaced with "lit":

The firelace was lit.

Any other, better suggestions?

  • Lit was my first thought, and I suspect that it's going to be the best choice. Commented Aug 6, 2021 at 19:41
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    No, the wood is burning, not the fireplace. Commented Aug 6, 2021 at 19:47
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    @FeliniusRex - one says that a lamp is lit, or that a candelabrum is lit, even though it's only the bulb or the candle(s) that are actually lit. As far as litintense, that usage is far less common in my experience. Commented Aug 6, 2021 at 19:50
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    A fire burns in a fireplace. The fireplace is not the fire. Commented Aug 6, 2021 at 19:55
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    If a fireplace is lit, it means that there is a light shining on/in it. If a fire is lit, it means that the fire (which has been prepared) has been set alight. Commented Aug 6, 2021 at 23:37

3 Answers 3


We don’t often light fires nowadays and the everyday words describing the process are being forgotten.

For example:

K. L. set alight to 72-year-old J.C. in her garden [...], on 13 March 2018 before killing himself. [bbc.co.uk/news]

A man has been injured after the car he was in went on fire on an unclassified road between Dingwall and Evanton. [bbc.co.uk/news]

You look at me and, babe, I wanna catch on fire [Lady Gaga: Always Remember Us This Way]

Three people were onboard when it came down, hitting power lines and setting alight on the A14 near Abergavenny. [BBC TV Ten O’Clock News]

They tore down a giant banner celebrating communist China's 70th anniversary and rapidly put it to flame. [BBC TV Ten O’Clock News]

...to light on fire [ChronicleLive.co.uk]

You can light a fire.
You can set light to something, set fire to something, set something alight and set something on fire.
You can’t set alight to something. Nothing can set alight.
Things catch fire. (In some dialects you might wait, say, for the wood to catch.) Once they have caught fire, things are on fire. But they don’t go on fire or catch on fire or light on fire.

While "put to the sword" appears in print occasionally, "put to flame" and "put to the flame" make very rare appearances: mostly in the writings of Lord of the Rings fans.


There is the word alight which means burning (Cambridge)

The FreeDictionary defines it as meaning

Burning; lighted:

  • The discarded match was still alight.

There is also aflame but it is literary, and ablaze, but this means burning very strongly, so it may be too intense.


Here is a picture of a fireplace. In it, a fire is burning. The fire is lit (or burning). The fireplace does not burn.

enter image description here

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