When to Use Lightning or Lightening

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Determining which word to use in a sentence can be difficult, especially when the words look or sound very similar. Come and learn what to do in this situation when you are deciding between lightning and lightening.

Which Word to Use?

Have you ever met a set of identical twins? While they might be almost exactly alike, they are two different people with different identities. With that being said, it can still be difficult to tell identical twins apart! Similarly, when two words sound alike, it can be difficult to know which word to use in a sentence. The words lightning and lightening are examples of two words that sound similar, but mean completely different things and can change a sentence completely. Therefore, it is very important that you know the definition of a word in order to decide whether or not it belongs in the sentence.

Note that lightning and lightening do not sound exactly alike, rather, they sound similar. Lightning has two syllables, and is pronounced light-ning. Lightening, on the other hand, has three syllables. It is pronounced ligh-ten-ing. Let's now take a closer look at the meaning of these two words.


Have you ever seen zig zags of light flash in the sky during a thunderstorm? That is called lightning. Here are a few examples of how you can use lightning in a sentence:

  • After we heard a loud crack, we saw lightning explode throughout the nighttime sky.
  • If you are stuck outside during a bad thunderstorm, avoid bodies of water so that you do not get struck by lightning.
  • Marcus had a phobia of lightning and hid under his bed during bad weather.

The purple lightning lit up the sky.


Lightening means to make something lighter. This could be anything - from the color of your hair to the color of the paint on the wall. This could also refer to lightening the load of something, like a financial burden or the amount of weight in a box. You could also use the word lightening if someone needs to become less intense or harsh. Think about the first part of the word - lighten. Here are examples of how you can use the word 'lightening' in a sentence:

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