September 2008 Vol. 13 Issue 3
Grammar Trap: lead vs. led

This is a trap I’ve often fallen into.

I don’t know why — maybe because led just looks incorrect, but it is.

Lead (pronounced “leed”) is a verb that means, among other things, to show the way.

Use this spelling when you’re using the verb in the present tense (“She will lead the team”) or in the infinitive (“She uses a light to lead the way”).

The past tense of this verb always is led (never lead).

That can be confusing because led is pronounced like lead, the soft metal that used to be in paint and plumbing.

Of course, lead (still pronounced “leed”) can also be a noun indicating first position. For example, “She is in the lead in our office wager.”

I hope I haven’t led you down a leaden path of confusion.

Kevin Leigh Smith, kevlsmith@purdue.edu

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