Homonyms are terrible things in the English language. One example is led vs lead. Which one is past tense?

If I say “Past Tense Zeppelin” and it means something to you, I just answered your question. If that doesn’t help, I have a story for you to help you remember, and it involves a hard rock band.

Lead vs lead

led vs lead past tense

To remember led vs lead past tense, remember the heavy metal band named for old German blimps, and how it’s spelled past tense Zeppelin, not first Zeppelin.

Lead is a verb that means to be in charge or first. You pronounce it “leed.” Lead is also a useful but toxic metal. You pronounce it “led.”

Since English is a terrible language, the past tense of being in charge is “led,” pronounced just like the toxic heavy metal.

Ironically, heavy metal gives us a way to remember which one is which, if you have some familiarity with hard rock music.

Remembering led vs lead past tense

I don’t know how true this story is, and there are several versions of it. But it’s helpful for remembering led vs lead, so we’re going to run with it. There’s a rumor surrounding the heavy metal band Led Zeppelin. The rumor is that the band name was a joke, specifically, a play on words. It originated with Keith Moon, drummer of The Who. Moon said, allegedly, that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant’s project was “gonna go over like a lead balloon,” or, “gonna go over like a lead Zeppelin.”

A Zeppelin was a type of blimp that originated in Germany. A blimp is a type of balloon.

A balloon made of lead (the metal) isn’t going to fly.

Page liked the name, but they spelled it “Led Zeppelin” so people would know how to pronounce it. You don’t pronounce it like the lead (first) Zeppelin, you pronounce it like the past tense Zeppelin, or the metal Zeppelin. And spell it like the past tense Zeppelin.

To remember led vs lead past tense, think of the 60s/70s heavy metal band, and how you spell and pronounce it like past tense Zeppelin.

Making up silly stories or phrases is helpful for remembering how to spell words, or obscure facts like which electrical prong is hot, so I don’t care if the story is true or if it’s an urban legend.