Writing Wrongs: Lead vs. Led

Roman Lead Ingot, Somerset, via ShareAlike License


“‘There were plenty of board games in ancient times with many variants, but reconstructing the playing technique is a very complicated process that only top experts can solve,’ said the deputy of director of the Archaeological Institute in Nitra, Karol Pieta, as cited by the SITA newswire. Pieta lead the research on the tomb in Poprad.”

What is wrong here? (I mean, besides the obvious typo that should have been caught by the proofreader—but don’t get me started.)

People have trouble with “lead” vs. “led.” I get it. It’s confusing! The verb to lead is pronounced LEED, and its past tense, led, is pronounced—well—LED. LED is what the author of the article should have used. “Pieta LED the research…”

But there is this other word that has nothing to do with the verb or its past tense. This other word is a noun, a metal called “lead,” which is pronounced LED, same as the past tense of LEAD. What a mess! Who makes this stuff up?

Here’s an easy way to remember which is which. It’s simple. They’re the same!

Both the verb and the noun are spelled L-E-A-D. Couldn’t be easier! That’s the first thing to remember.

The second thing to remember is that only one of these words has a past tense, and a noun never has a past tense. There is no past tense of “lamp,” for example, or, say, “soupçon.” (Although I’d like to try it.)

So here’s the deal: use LEAD when you’re talking about heavy metal, and also use LEAD when you’re LEADING someone somewhere in the present tense. When you’ve finished LEADING them and you have LED them, use L-E-D, like the author of the above quote should have done.

(If you want to be really smart, there are LED lights, there’s LEED certification, and there’s a lede in an article, but I don’t think journalists actually use that word anymore, do they?)



Have you come across any bad grammar lately? Use the contact form to send me links to your favorites or your pet grammar peeves, and let’s see if we can lead each other to better communication.


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#lead#Writing Wrongs


  1. chris - January 14, 2018 @ 03:54

    I constantly come across people having the issue w/ the word ‘your’ and ‘you’re’…. or ‘their’ and ‘they’re’… is it because they do not recognize the contraction?

    I remember the misspelling of ‘receive’… ( ‘i’ before ‘e’ except (accept, lol) after ‘c’.

    • Petrea - January 14, 2018 @ 08:33

      We’ll have to do your/you’re and there/their/they’re one of these days!

  2. Lowell - January 14, 2018 @ 11:47

    You’re leeding us down a narrow road which has no end, from what I’ve herd.

    But some other things: The first sentence is confusing and has many unnecessary parts. Just say, “Experts tell us that In ancient times, people played many board games which consisted of numerous variants and it’s quite difficult to determine the techniques they used.”

    No need to say “top experts.” To be an expert, is by definition, to be “on top.”

    For example, “I’m on top of much of the goofiness of my blog which, according to others on top, was quite different from the goofy blogs of people in ancient times.”

    Okay, I’ll quit now. I think it’s time for my nap, anyway!

    • Petrea - January 14, 2018 @ 15:36

      You’re right, of course. There were a few things to pick on in the sentence, and I chose the heavy metal!

  3. William Kendall - January 14, 2018 @ 12:25

    And of course “where” and “were” are frequently mixed up, not to mention “we’re”.

    I find I rarely use the word led.

    • Petrea - January 14, 2018 @ 15:37

      That’s interesting. I haven’t thought of how often I use it.

  4. Denise - January 14, 2018 @ 13:47

    Ooh, this one is a pet peeve of mine, but it’s so common I have to just let it go. But thank you!

    • Petrea - January 14, 2018 @ 15:37

      There are so many common ones! My pile of pet peeves is prolific.

  5. Barbara Ellis - January 14, 2018 @ 14:03

    I tut tut whenever I see lead used instead of led, but I see it much more frequently nowadays. Does Word erroneously autocorrect it?

    • Petrea - January 14, 2018 @ 15:39

      I don’t think Word does, but I’ve long since stopped using the spell-check function. Someone on Facebook mentioned auto-correct, perhaps in terms of a mobile phone, but I’m not sure.

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