Lead or Led?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Lead" and "Led"?

"Lead" and "led" are easy to confuse. Writers' confusion over the words "lead" and "led" is understandable because "lead" can be pronounced two ways, one of which is "led." Here is a summary of the situation:
  • Lead (1). "Lead" (rhymes with "seed") is associated with being in charge, being at the front, or showing the way. For example:
    • Captain Smith will lead the company while I am away.
    • Geraint Jones has taken the lead in the race.
    • Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes that lead little by little to the truth. (Novelist Jules Verne)
  • Lead (2). "Lead" (rhymes with "bed") is a soft toxic metal. For example:
    • As it is soft, has a relatively low melting point, is easy to shape, and doesn't corrode much, lead is incredibly useful.
    • Lead poisoning occurs as the element crowds out the minerals your body needs to function, such as calcium and iron.
  • Led. "Led" is the past tense of the verb "to lead." For example:
    • Ten soldiers wisely led will beat a hundred without a head. (Tragedian Euripides)
    • He led the race before tripping over a water bottle on the road.
    • Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity. (Biologist Louis Pasteur)
    lead or led?

    More about "Lead" and "Led"

    Lead

    "Lead" can be an adjective,noun, or verb:

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

    Example sentences with "lead":
    • Lead the team back to the tents.
    • (Here, "lead" is a verb.)
    • You can take your dog off the lead.
    • (In this example, "lead" is a noun.)
    • Keep this pace up. You are in the lead.
    • ("Lead" is a noun.)
    • You have been selected to be the lead tenor.
    • ("Lead" is an adjective.)
    "Lead" that rhymes with "bed" is a soft heavy toxic metallic element. (It is a noun.)

    Example sentences with "lead":
    • In the UK, it is illegal to use lead for weights in fresh-water fishing.
    • Someone has stolen the lead from the church roof again.
    lead.jpg
    lead ore

    Led

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

    Example sentences with "led":
    • 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.)

    Consider the Context

    Look at this sentence:
    • Find the lead.
    Without context, it is impossible to know whether "lead" should be pronounced "leed" or "led." However, it is unusual to find the word "lead" without sufficient context to establish which version is meant.
    • Where is the dog's lead?
    • (This "lead" rhymes with "seed.")
    • Eat lead!
    • (This "lead" rhymes with "bed." NB: "Lead" is a metonym for bullets.)
    lead_joke_Stan_Laurel

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    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 past participles? What is the past tense? List of easily confused words

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