To add fuel to the fire: Echar leña al fuego

photograph of a man adding fuel to a fire

To “add fuel to the fire” is an English expression conveying the act of worsening a situation, usually by making conflict or disagreement more intense. It’s like pouring metaphorical fuel on an already burning fire, exacerbating tensions.


Consider a heated argument between friends. Instead of trying to calm the situation, someone making provocative remarks might be accused of adding fuel to the fire. For instance, «Bringing up old grievances during the argument only added fuel to the fire


The origin of this phrase lies in the literal act of adding material to a fire to make it burn more intensely. The metaphorical use emerged over time, emphasising the idea of intensifying a conflict or problem by contributing to its escalation.

Key words:

Exacerbating: Making worse / aggravating / intensifying

Metaphorical: Symbolic / representational / figurative

Grievances: Complaints / objections

Emphasising: Highlighting


Written by Aimee Wilkinson, Principal at The Harrogate International Academy

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