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Lead vs. Led

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips
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The English language has hundreds of different words that trip up writers on a regular basis. Many of these confusing English words are homophones, words that are pronounced alike but have different meanings and spellings. Another good portion is verbs, with the confusion surrounding proper tense: present tense vs. past tense vs. future tense. Today’s words have to do with both.


The word lead originated from Old English lǣdan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch leiden and German leiten, also to load and lode.

Lead as verb:

Lead is used as a verb which means to cause (a person or animal) to go with one by holding them by the hand, a halter, a rope, etc. while moving forward.

She emerged leading a bay horse.

Lead also means to be a route or means of access to a particular place or in a particular direction.

The door led to a better-lit corridor.

To be in charge or command of also means to lead.

A military delegation was led by the Chief of Staff.

Lead also means to have the advantage over competitors in a race or game.

He followed up with a break of 105 to lead 3-0.

Led as verb:

Led (pronounced led; rhymes with bed) is the past tense of lead which means to show the way by going in advance; to guide or direct in a course.

Lead vs. Led

The general led his troops into battle.


This car takes unleaded gas only.

Don’t break the lead in my pencil.

The lead bullet was traveling at 1,000 feet per second.

The general led his troops into battle.

The president led the country out of a deep recession.

He used it to tame orchestrasnotably the unruly New York Philharmonic, which he led for 11 years. –USA Today

Lead or led:

Led is lead past tense. This is its only use. Do not confuse it with the metal lead. Lead is a present tense verb, meaning to guide. It also is a noun that refers to a metallic element, e.g., a lead pipe. Here’s a helpful trick to remember lead vs. led. The usual mistake is to use lead when you mean led.

He lead the troops to victory. (Wrong)

He led the troops to victory. (Correct)

In other words, you need a way to remember that only led is the correct past tense of lead. Try this, If you can substitute the words guided or directed into your sentence, you should be using the three-letter led.

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