Ok, I can’t take this one anymore. Even normally solid writers are getting this one wrong all over the place, and I’m starting to feel like I’m the only person left who knows it. I think people get this one wrong more often than they get it right — more often than there/their/they’re, or who/whom, or even its/it’s. So here it is:
The past tense and past participle of lead (pronounced l-ee-d), meaning “to walk in front of, or be in charge of”, is led. L-E-D. Today I will lead the horse to water; yesterday I led him to water, before that I had led him to water. So when I read, as I just did, “the investigation has lead to,” it makes my teeth hurt. It’s “has led.”
I guess the problem is that led is pronounced the same as the metal lead: l-eh-d. So people say it with a short E in their mind, and type it like the metal. That seems odd, though, because isn’t the verb a lot more common than the noun? If we’re going to get it wrong, it seems like we should get it wrong the other way, spelling the metal as led. Maybe it’s more because of read, read, read, which changes to a short E while keeping the same spelling. Yeah, that seems more likely.
Whatever the reason, it is possible to get it right. The old 6th-grade English book I use for teaching expects kids that age to get it right, so I think the rest of us can if we try.