Lead (liːd) and led (led) are different forms of the same verb. The base meaning is ‘to control or guide a situation to reach a destination or objective’ – e.g. I lead a yoga group on Wednesdays. Led has the same meaning as lead, but is used to talk about the past – e.g. I led a yoga class last week.
Lead (verb) has many different meanings (see ‘additional meanings’ below to find out how many!). The main thing to remember when we use lead (verb) is that if we are talking in the past or forming a perfect tense, we need to use led. If we use the base form of the verb, we use lead.
|Present Simple: Lead||The guide leads the tour once an hour.|
|Future Simple: Lead||Jill will lead the project next week.|
|Progressive Participle: Leading||The Prime Minster is leading the party now, but will resign soon.|
|Past Simple: Led||The General led the army into battle.|
|Past Participle: Led||How many times have you led a management team?|
Here are some correct and incorrect uses of lead and led in different verb forms:
If you’re still confused about tenses and whether to use lead or led, think about other verbs you studied when learning tenses. For example, feed, which means ‘to provide food for a living being’. Feed is helpful in two ways:
When considering whether to use lead or led, ask yourself: would this sentence need feed or fed? If it needs feed use lead, and if it needs fed, use led:
Lead (verb) means: ‘to control or guide a situation to reach a destination or objective’.
Synonyms: control, guide, conduct, direct, manage, govern.
Set expression: Lead the way, lead up to, lead someone on, lead off with, lead towards, take the lead, lead someone up the garden path.
Led (verb: past simple and past participle form of lead).
Synonyms: See first definition of lead above.
Set expressions: Used with nouns as a suffix to create adjectives concerning who controls something – e.g. student-led or market-led. Also used with adverbs to make adjectives that describe how someone responds to influence – e.g. easily led, or how someone directs something – e.g. badly led.
Try these lead vs. led exercises. Once you finish the activity, you will have led yourself to victory!
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