There is often confusion over the words lead (rhymes with bead) and led.

Lead

Lead can be an adjective,noun, or verb:

Lead that rhymes with bead is associated with being in charge or being in front.
  • Lead the team back to the tents.
  • (lead as a verb)
  • You can take your dog off the lead.
  • (lead as a noun)
  • Keep this pace up. You are in the lead.
  • (lead as a noun)
  • You have been selected to be the lead tenor.
  • (lead as an adjective)

Lead that rhymes with bed is a soft heavy toxic metallic element. (It is a noun.)

  • In the UK, it is illegal to use lead for weights in fresh-water fishing.
  • (lead as a noun)
  • Someone has stolen the lead off the church roof again.
  • (lead as a noun)


lead ore

Led

The word led is the past tense and the past participle of the verb to lead (which rhymes with bead).

Examples:
  • He led the cavalry over the hill.
  • (This is the verb to lead in the past tense.)
  • He has led the cavalry over the hill.
  • (The word led is a past participle in this example.)

A Quick Test

LEAD

The confusion arises because the noun lead (rhymes with bed) is spelt identically to the verb lead. (The noun lead is of course the name of a soft heavy toxic metallic element.) As a consequence, some writers use lead when they mean led.

To add to the confusion, lead (rhymes with bead) also exists as a noun. A dog's lead, for example. Therefore, you have to rely on context.
  • Take the lead.
    (Without context, it is impossible to know whether lead in this example rhymes with bead or bed.)