I am trying to write a sentence that conveys the idea of lighting something up (a cigar, cigarette) using the flame of a candle. What is the correct form?

  • to light up with a candle
  • to light up from a candle
  • to light up off a candle

Thank you for your help

Best regards

  • 1
    You missed out at least He lit up using a (match, blowtorch, whatever). And possibly other terms. All the above prepositions "work", but with is probably the most common one. Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 18:57
  • Thanks FumbleFingers. I don't want to use "using" as it were. I agree that "with" is probably the way to go. Again, thanks.
    – nuspeaker
    Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 19:03
  • @FumbleFingers - I am an inveterate smoker. I might use 'with' if I picked the candle up and lit a cigarette with it, and 'from', if, cigarette in mouth, I leaned over the candle and introduced the end of the cigarette to the flame. Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 22:44
  • Where I'm from, we might use "light up off," as in, "May I light up off your joint?" I think that works for a candle-to-cigar transaction too. Borrow something already burning to start a new fire... Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 2:17

3 Answers 3

  • I light candles every day. [transitive verb]

  • A candle can light up a small space.

  • If you light many candles, they can light up a space.

light up in those two examples is a phrasal verb and transitive.

  • He lit up [a cigar or cigarette] and sat back in the armchair.

There, it is a transitive verb with the object omitted, which is an idiomatic usage.

  • The little boy's face lit up with joy when he saw the huge ice cream on the table.

That one is figurative and stative.


Prepositions are fun, and confusing in English -- and usually not a binary choice.

In this case, the preposition "up" is not necessary. You can light something without lighting up.

As to whether you light from, with, by, and so on, here's another choice:

He leaned over to light his cigarette in the candle flame.

Here's all the choices I could think of; they all would make sense in my opinion to a native speaker:

He lit the cigarette in/from/with/using/within/inside/over/by/on the candle flame.

  • light up and light are not the same at all.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 19:04

In English, "light up" is a two-word verb, also called a "phrasal verb." That means that "up" in this context is not particularly acting as a preposition--it is part of the verb itself.

Furthermore, "light up" and "light" have different meanings. To "light up" may imply an emotional outcome, e.g.

  • "She lit up with joy when she heard the good news."

Or it can refer to light more generally:

  • "The Christmas lights lit up the tree with colorful warmth in the darkness."

When one is lighting up a cigarette, it means simply to ignite. Usage would be similar. For example:

  • "He lit up his cigarette in the flame of a candle."
  • "He lit up his cigarette by the flame of a candle."
  • "He lit up his cigarette using the flame of a candle."
  • "He lit up his cigarette with the flame of a candle."

Beware of ambiguity. The following sentence leaves it unclear what or whom is being "lit up" (back to "light up" being a potential reference to joy, as well as to ignite).

  • "He lit up with the flame of a candle."

Was he made happy by the candle's flame? Did the candle set him on fire? Did he light a cigar or cigarette from the candle? Given only this sentence, a reader would be left to infer the correct meaning.

  • True -- people usually don't say "lit up" or "light up" in regard to cigarettes; they say "I lit my cigarette" or "I need to light my cigarette" without "up." Adding "up" almost makes it sound like shining a light on the cigarette.
    – user8356
    Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 15:10

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