Lead or Led?

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. correct tick
  • Geraint Jones has taken the lead in the race. correct tick
  • Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes that lead little by little to the truth. correct tick (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. correct tick
  • Lead poisoning occurs as the element crowds out the minerals your body needs to function, such as calcium and iron. correct tick


"Led" is the past tense of the verb "to lead." For example:
  • Ten soldiers wisely led will beat a hundred without a head. correct tick (Tragedian Euripides)
  • He led the race before tripping over a water bottle on the road. correct tick
  • Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity. correct tick (Biologist Louis Pasteur)
lead or led?

More about "Lead" and "Led"


"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. correct tick
  • (Here, "lead" is a verb.)
  • You can take your dog off the lead. correct tick
  • (In this example, "lead" is a noun.)
  • Keep this pace up. You are in the lead. correct tick
  • ("Lead" is a noun.)
  • You have been selected to be the lead tenor. correct tick
  • ("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. correct tick
  • Someone has stolen the lead from the church roof again. correct tick
lead ore


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. correct tick
  • (This is the verb "to lead" in the past tense.)
  • He has led the cavalry over the hill. correct tick
  • (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.)
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.