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  • “Lead” vs. “Led”: Do You Know the Difference?

    Text Version:

    The words “lead” and “led” can be awfully confusing. “Led” is a verb, but “lead” can be a noun, adjective, and verb. If you’ve been struggling to figure out the correct usage of “lead” and “led,” read on.

    The definitions of “lead”

    Let’s start with the trickier word first. As mentioned above, “lead” can be a noun, adjective, or verb, and it has two different pronunciations based on the part of speech.

    “Lead” as a noun can refer to a metallic element that is used in some old paints and some old plumbing pipes. When it is used this way, it rhymes with “red” (and, of course, “led”). Example:

    Lead is no longer used in paints in the US because it presents health hazards.

    “Lead” can also be a noun that means “a position at the front.” When it is used this way, it rhymes with “seed.” Example:

    Polly was surprised to find that she was in the lead of the race.

    “Lead” can be a present tense verb that can mean “to guide,” “to direct operations,” or “to go through.” It rhymes with “seed.” Examples:

    It’s your turn to lead the discussion in our conversation class.
    It is the conductor’s job to lead the orchestra.
    All she wanted was to lead a life full of adventure and mystery.

    “Lead” can also be an adjective that refers to taking charge or going first. It rhymes with “seed.” Example:

    Sarah is the lead presenter because she knows the most about the results we’re sharing.

    The definition of “led”

    After going through all those definitions for “lead,” hopefully “led” won’t seem so bad!

    “Led” (which rhymes with “red”) is ALWAYS a past tense verb. It is the past tense of “lead” and means “guided,” “directed,” or “went through.” Examples:

    Genghis Khan led a huge army and expanded the Mongol Empire.
    The college senior led the campus tour.
    I think I’ve led a pretty happy life.


    Still wondering if you understand the differences between “led” and all the versions of “lead”? Test yourself by choosing the correct form of the word in the following short quiz. Then look below to see if you’re right.

    A) The footprints have (lead/led) straight to the home of the thief.

    B) Ben (lead/led) the class activity yesterday, so it’s Karen’s turn today.

    C) It has always been my dream to (lead/led) my country.

    After checking your answers, remember to share this guide with a friend who may also find it useful!

    Correct answers:
    A) led
    B) led
    C) lead

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  • Comments on this post (2 comments)

    • Barfolomew says...

      OK, so what about a future event? i.e. “Your vote helps determine how this country will be led.”

      On March 21, 2019

    • Christina says...


      On October 27, 2014

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