The Grammar Guru: Lead vs. led

The Grammar Guru is here to lead you onto the correct path of using "lead" and "led."
The Grammar Guru is here to lead you onto the correct path of using "lead" and "led."

Mekita Rivas, SNR communications associate, publishes a biweekly feature called "Grammar Guru."

Every other week, the Grammar Guru will share writing tips to help make your work as polished as possible. Some of these tips may address common spelling errors, while others will examine the many nuances of the English language.

Grammar Guru Tip #27
The confusion between "lead" and "led" typically stems from the way the different meanings are pronounced. "Lead," depending on the meaning, can function as a noun, adjective or verb. The biggest confusion comes into play when it is used as a verb. The most common definition of "lead" as a verb is to show the way. "Lead" is the present tense of the verb.

When used as a verb, "lead" rhymes with "bead." As a noun, "lead" rhymes with "bed" when it means a type of metallic element. Also as a noun, "lead" rhymes with "bead" when it's referring to an animal's leash or to the first position.

She leads the group with confidence and poise. ("Leads" is a verb meaning shows the way.)
The marathon runner is in the lead. ("Lead" is referring to someone in the first position.)
He is the coach's choice for lead kicker. ("Lead" is an adjective that modifies "kicker.")
His dog is off the lead. (Refers to a noun that means a dog's leash.)
Do you have any lead for my pencil? (Refers to the noun that means a type of metal.)

Pro tip: In most cases, "led" is a verb. It is the past tense and past participle of "lead" as a verb when the pronunciation of "lead" rhymes with "bead."

Her mother led her into the kitchen to show her how to cook the chicken. ("Led" is a verb in the past tense form.)
He has led the team to nationals five years in a row. ("Led" is a verb in past participle form.)

Need some grammar guidance? The UNL Style Guide ( is a great resource for all university employees. If you have writing questions that the style guide doesn't answer, feel free to email the Grammar Guru at