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“Led” or “Lead”—What Is the Past Tense of “Lead”?

Updated on May 16, 2023Grammar

The past tense of lead is led, not lead. One reason for the confusion might be that the infinitive and past tense forms of a similar verb, read, are spelled the same way: read. But with lead, that’s not how things are.

  • Led is the correct way to spell the past tense of lead.
  • Lead is a common misspelling of the past tense of the verb lead.

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Definition of led

Led is the past tense of the verb lead (pronounced leed), which means to guide, direct, be in charge, or to bring something about:

She led the party through the marshland.

She lead the party through the marshland.

The accident led to an astonishing discovery.

The accident lead to an astonishing discovery.

They led us to believe we were welcome guests.

They lead us to believe we were welcome guests.

By the way, if you see the word led written in uppercase letters—LED—that’s an acronym that stands for “light emitting diode,” which is, as its name suggests, a diode that emits light.

Other meaning of lead

Lead is also the name of a certain type of metal. However, when it’s used for the metal, the word lead is pronounced just like led, which adds to the confusion:

His legs felt heavy, like they were made from lead.

You should avoid getting lead poisoning.

The soft core of a pencil is also sometimes referred to as lead, even though it’s made out of graphite and doesn’t usually contain lead:

The lead in this pencil is too soft.

Examples of led

“As she led us up four flights of narrow stairs, she mentioned that the building was nine hundred years old, so we should watch our heads.” —Beth Jusino, Walking to the End of the World

A team of sculptors and chocolatiers led by master chocolatier Jennifer Lindsey-Clarke took 130 hours across four weeks to make the model, using more than 17 liters (4.5 gallons) of melted chocolate.” —CNN.

The Celtics and Warriors have only played each other once in the Finals, and that was in 1964, back when the Warriors were led by Wilt Chamberlain and most Americans assumed that the Beatles would be a passing fad.” —Slate

“The loss dropped the Heat to 4-10, with Haslem inserted late in a game the Pistons led by as many as 28 points.” —Sun Sentinel

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