Grammar Hammer: Get the Lead Out

Lead and led is yet another grammatical speed bump that causes me to pause. I saw examples of incorrect lead/led usage in a few news releases this week, and each time, I had to double check myself. I had to get past the homophone of lead vs. led and get down to the nitty gritty of what the release was actually saying. Who is leading what?  Who led whom?

I don’t think anyone needs me to tell you about the mineral kind of lead, but in case you do, it’s the stuff that they used to put in paint that was banned in the 1970s (and not the stuff you’d think is in a #2 pencil – for more on that subject, please see David Rees’ book “How to Sharpen Pencils” and his website

The word “lead” (rhymes with “seed”) can be used as a noun, a verb, or an adjective.

Example #1:  Who is currently in the lead? (noun)

Example #2:  You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. (verb)

Example #3:  I’ve been selected to play the lead role in this summer’s production of “Hello, Dolly!” (adjective)

The past tense and past participle of the verb “to lead” is “led.”

Example #1:  Napoleon led his troops to their final battle at Waterloo.

Example #2:  Winning the regional spelling bee led to fame, glory, and my future career as the Grammar Hammer.  (Well, that’s not entirely true; I never won a regional spelling bee.)

Quick tip: If you’re trying to come with another way to say “guided” or “directed,” or you’re talking about leadership and leaders, you would use the word “led.”

Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.

One response to “Grammar Hammer: Get the Lead Out

  1. As always, Catherine, you offer some great tips. Some of these things seem so simple. Yet I find myself falling victim to violating the grammatical rules you highlight. Thanks for keeping me on my toes!

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