Should you write:
a) ‘Last autumn, I led the Pegasus project’, or
b) ‘Last autumn, I lead the Pegasus project’?
The answer is a). Led is the past tense and past participle of the verb to lead.
The confusion arises for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, the verb to read keeps the same spelling when transferred to the past tense, even though the pronunciation changes (from ‘reed’ to ‘red’). Why doesn’t lead follow the same rule? Unfortunately, the answer is the same as ever: because English is a tricksy and unpredictable beast.
Secondly, lead has several meanings – one as a verb, as mentioned above, and several as a noun. And to make things more confusing, one of the noun meanings rhymes with led.
– to guide or direct (pronounced ‘leed’)
– an important and instructive piece of information (pronounced ‘leed’)
– the advance position in a race or competition (pronounced ‘leed’)
– a leash or connecting cable (pronounced ‘leed’)
– a soft, malleable heavy metal (pronounced ‘led’)
However, while the word has many meanings, you need to remember only two spellings:
In the present tense, or when it’s a noun, it’s always lead
In the past tense, it’s always led.
Incidentally, would you like to hear about a little trivia we discovered along the way? Of course you would. Apparently, when Jimmy Page started to assemble the band that would later become known as Led Zeppelin, The Who’s Keith Moon commented that it would ‘go down like a lead balloon’. His bandmate extended this to ‘more like a lead zeppelin’.
On hearing this, Page decided to make it the band’s name. He dropped the ‘a’ from lead at the suggestion of his manager, so that people would understand that it was a play on heavy metal, and not pronounce it incorrectly. So now you know.
More 60-second fixes:
- Spaces and units
- Should have or should of
- Affect and effect
- Bear and bare
- Compare to and compare with
- Complimentary and complementary
- Different from/to/than
- Judgement or judgment
- Palate, palette and pallet
- Rein and reign
- Spelt/spelled, learnt/learned and dreamt/dreamed
- Stationary and stationery
- Substitute for/with
- 60-second quiz
14 / 08 / 12
60-second fix: complimentary and complementary
This is one of the trickiest homophones to remember, partly because the spellings are only one letter apart, and partly because there is no good reason for the difference (both stem from the Latin complere, meaning ‘to fill up’), writes Cathy Relf. Sadly, ours is not to reason why, but simply to learn the difference: […]
20 / 03 / 12
60-second fix: substitute for or with?
Do you substitute one thing for another, or with another? Well, you can do both. But they have different meanings, writes Cathy Relf. You substitute the new for the old, but substitute the old with the new. The easiest way to get it right is to think of sport, where, if someone is injured, you […]