Pavement pedantry: led not lead

English eh? Just when you think you've got a handle on it, it throws led at you...

By: Clare Howdle,   1 minute


Sometimes it feels like the English language has no rhyme or reason to it. A series of strict rules that dictate how words behave in the present, past and future should be simple enough to follow. Except for when the rules themselves don’t behave. Then what do you do?

Lead and led are a perfect example of this. In the past tense, the verb ‘to lead’ is ‘led’. ‘I lead the way’ changes to ‘I led the way’.

The problem is that many people compare lead with read, because in the present and past tense it’s pronounced in a similar way.

And therein lies the problem. Because the past tense of the verb ‘to read’ is ‘read’. When written in the past tense, ‘I read books’, looks exactly the same as it does in the present tense, ‘I read books’, but confusingly, it is now pronounced red.

This has consequently muddled a whole lot of people into doing the same with lead, assuming that in the past tense, lead is still written lead, but pronounced led.

But it isn’t. It’s led. It’s pronounced led and it’s written led. Got it?

The lead/led issue has now opened a whole can of worms here at Stranger Collective HQ, as we’ve spent the morning questioning why words behave the way they do. For example, riddle us this. If the plural of goose is geese, why isn’t the plural of moose, meese?

Pedants out.


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