lead and led - the difference


 
Lead (rhymes with bead) is associated with being in charge or being in front. The past tense of the verb to lead is led. Confusion arises because lead (a soft toxic metal) is pronounced led.
 


There is often confusion over the words lead (rhymes with bead) and led.

Lead

Lead can be an adjective, noun, or verb:

Lead that rhymes with bead is associated with being in charge or being in front.

Lead the team back to the tents. (lead as a verb)

You can take your dog off the lead. (lead as a noun)

Keep this pace up.  You are in the lead. (lead as a noun)

You have been selected to be the lead tenor. (lead as an adjective)
Lead that rhymes with bed is a soft heavy toxic metallic element.  (It is a noun.)

In the UK, it is illegal to use lead for weights in fresh-water fishing.
(lead as a noun)

Someone has stolen the lead off the church roof again.
(lead as a noun)


           lead ore

Led

The word led is the past tense and the past participle of the verb to lead (which rhymes with bead).

Examples:

He led the cavalry over the hill.
(This is the verb to lead in the past tense.)

He has led the cavalry over the hill.
(The word led is a past participle in this example.)
 
Select the correct version:

 
 

 
LEAD

The confusion arises because the noun lead (rhymes with bed) is spelt identically to the verb lead. (The noun lead is of course the name of a soft heavy toxic metallic element.) As a consequence, some writers use lead when they mean led.

To add to the confusion, lead (rhymes with bead) also exists as a noun. A dog's lead, for example. Therefore, you have to rely on context.

Take the lead.
(Without context, it is impossible to know whether lead in this example rhymes with bead or bed.)
 

See also:

What are adjectives?
What are nouns?
What are verbs?
What are past participles?
What is the past tense? List of easily confused words