Q: What’s the difference between “lead” and “led”?—Jake S.
A: “Lead” has two specific meanings. As a noun, lead (pronounced like “bread”) is a metallic element. It’s labeled on the periodic table as “Pb” and sometimes found in really old paint. The U.S. government banned lead paint in 1978. Lead pencils aren’t actually made out of lead; they are made out of graphite. (A grammar example and a science lesson all in one!) So whenever the word is used as a noun, it’s always spelled l-e-a-d.
Used as a verb, “lead” (pronounced like greed) means “to guide or direct.” I always try to lead my children by example. Brian A. Klems leads in the voting for Best-Looking Male Grammar Expert. While I can’t confirm the validity of the second example statement, I can confirm that “lead” is used properly.
“Led” comes into play as the past tense of the verb “lead.” Derek Jeter led the New York Yankees to a World Series victory. I led you to the correct answer of this grammatical conundrum. If you can substitute the words “guided” or “directed” into the sentence, your correct choice is “led.”
Brian A. Klems is the online community editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.
- Pick up your copy of the Beginning Writer’s Answer Book. For a digital download of the book, click here.
- Follow the WD Editors on Twitter: @writersdigest @BrianKlems @JaneFriedman @robertleebrewer @alicepope @kmnickell @JessicaStrawser @ChuckSambuchino
- Become a fan at our Facebook page