lead and led - the difference

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
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 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


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

  • 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.)
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are adjectives? What are nouns? What are verbs? What are past participles? What is the past tense? List of easily confused words