Friday, May 31, 2013

Grammar Tip #8: Lightning vs. Lightening

This one should be obvious, but I've seen it misused so many times lately, that I decided to include it in my Grammar Tips.

Here’s how to tell the difference between these two words:
  • Lightning is that flash of light in the sky during a thunderstorm. 
  • Lightening is a verb (specifically a gerund) meaning making lighter in weight,  color or intensity.

Some examples are in order:
  • I saw lightning in the sky.  We’d better go inside.
  • I am lightening my load by taking some books out of my backpack.
  • The sky is lightening as the sun comes up.

Now, here is where it gets confusing. “Lightening CAN refer to the flash of light in a thunderstorm, but only when it is used as a verb, to express action and NOT when it is used as a noun.

Confusing, right?  The best way to figure it out is to ask yourself, Would I use “thunder” or would I use “thundering “ to replace it? If you would use “thunder,” then use “lightning.”  If you would use “thundering,” then use “lightening.” You can remember it by associating the longer word “thundering” with the longer word “lightening.”

  • It is lightening outside. (You would say, “It is thundering outside.”)

  • I think we are going to have a lightning storm tonight. (You would say, “I think we are going to have a thunderstorm tonight.”)
  • There is lightning in our area tonight. (You would say, “There is thunder in our area tonight.”)

The instances where you would use the word “lightening” are really very rare.  When in doubt, use lightning.  


  1. How did you get that photos? You took that photos by yourself, downloaded from another site or just took screenshot from ammo rpg game?

  2. I think I got it from It's a photo site that doesn't require attribution.