Lead and Led



The newspaper (an Irish daily) report of 14/05/2013 read: ‘It was a recession-lead [sic] phenomenon.’ (The story referred to an increase in the number of people seeking medical reports in order to apply for welfare support.)

Because the word lead can be used as a verb and as a noun, confusion arises when the past tense and past participle forms of the verb are used.

Example of ‘lead‘ (rhymes with ‘bead‘) as a verb:

As captain, it was a great honour to lead the team onto the pitch at Croke Park for the All-Ireland Hurling Final.

Examples of ‘lead‘ as nouns:

1. I put the lead on the dog before we went for a walk. (same pronunciation as the Croke Park ‘lead‘ verb)

2. the lead (rhymes with ‘led‘, ‘fed‘, ‘bed‘ and ‘head‘) component of pencils and the metal lead (again, rhymes with ‘led‘, ‘fed‘, ‘bed‘ and ‘head‘) placed on the roof of a house

The focus of this lesson is on the correct use of the form of the verb ‘lead‘ in the past tense and when using the past participle.

Why is there a problem?

Because the pencil (noun) ‘lead‘ and the metal (noun) ‘lead‘ sound the same as the past tense / past participle forms, i.e. ‘led‘, there may well be a belief that the word ‘led‘ just doesn’t exist anymore. However, rumours of its demise are greatly exaggerated. So, when using the past tense and past participle forms of the verb ‘lead‘, ‘led‘ must be written.


Write ‘led‘ or ‘lead‘ (both words have the same sound) in the following sentences:

1. Rory McIlroy _____ the golf tournament from start to finish. (Past Tense)
2. The tour guide had ______ the way through the cave. (Past Participle)
3. One thing _____ to another. (Past Tense)
4. He has _____ me up the garden path on many occasions. (Past Participle)
5. Members of the English rock band, Led Zeppelin, _____ the tributes.(Past Tense)


1 -5: led