‘Ahead’ vs ‘A Head’: What’s the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on April 21, 2023

Are you wondering the difference between 'ahead' vs. 'a head?' 'A head' is a common misspelling of 'ahead.' However, you can use the phrase 'a head' in some situations. So, we created an in-depth guide with definitions, examples, usage tips, and phrases to help you learn how and when to use each correctly.

Need a quick answer?

Here it is: 

  • 'Ahead' is an adverb or adjective that means before, in advance, or better than something. 
  • 'A head' is a noun that is a single 'head,' top, or leader. 

While 'ahead' and 'a head' are grammatically correct depending on the context, they have different meanings and usages. 'Ahead' means that something will occur or happens before another event. 'A head' describes a single head or the head of something.

When to Use 'Ahead' vs. 'A Head'

As I mentioned above, 'ahead' is an adverb or adjective that means something will occur in advance or before another event or activity or that it is in a better position. You only use 'a head' as a noun meaning one head or the leader of something.

So, how do you know which to use and when? 

  • You use 'ahead' to refer to a position or time before a period, event, date, time, or activity.

For example, I often say things like:

                    Keep up the good work! You are way ahead of schedule.  

  • You can only use 'a head' as a noun referring to a person or body part (thing).

For example, I may use it to say something like:

Analysts believe the company has high employee satisfaction and retention because it has a head that leads by example. 

Basically, you use 'ahead' to indicate that something will occur before an event or time and 'a head' as a noun to describe a person or anatomy. 

How to Use 'Ahead' and 'A Head'

You've already learned that 'ahead' is the adjective or adverb for the noun head. You use 'ahead' to indicate a time, period, or event before something else.

For example:

  • Will you please prepare a presentation 'ahead' of the event next week?

'A head' is a phrase that means one head or the leader of a company, country, or organization.

For example:

  • 'A head' of hair that is thick gives you a more youthful appearance.

You could use the two together, too.

For example:

  • You can get 'ahead' if your company has 'a head' and managers who value and support their employees.

In the sentence above, 'ahead' refers to positioning yourself in front of competitors, and 'a head' refers to the company's leader.

Definition of 'Ahead': What Does 'Ahead' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 'ahead' is an adjective or adverb that means:

  • In front

It can also mean:

  • Into or for the future
  • In a more desirable position
  • In advance of
  • When a baseball pitcher throws more strikes than balls
  • To move beyond the position of another person or competitor

Phrases Containing 'Ahead'

  • Ahead of the game
  • Ahead of the competition
  • Get ahead
  • Moving ahead
  • Ahead of schedule

Definition of 'A Head': What Does 'A Head' Mean?

In comparison, when you search the same dictionary for 'a head,' it returns no results. However, you can use the noun phrase to describe:

  • A single head

It can also mean:

  • A leader
  • The president
  • A unit of produce
  • A bathroom

Phrases Containing 'A Head'

  • A head above the rest
  • A head of lettuce
  • A head of cabbage
  • A head of florets
  • A head of broccoli
  • A head of cauliflower
  • A head of communication
  • A head held high

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Ahead' vs. 'A Head'

Knowing how and when to properly use 'ahead' and 'a head' will prevent you from sending communications with spelling errors. However, you are likely still wondering how to pronounce them.

If so, here is a helpful guide. 

You pronounce 'ahead' according to the phonetic spelling:


The phonetic spelling of 'a head' is:


As you can see, the pronunciation is slightly different. However, when spoken by most people, they sound similar. So, keep that in mind when you use them in conversation.

How to Use 'Ahead' and 'A Head' in a Sentence

Now that you know the definition, correct usage, and pronunciation of 'ahead' and 'a head,' let's take a look at each used in sentences.


  • You are currently in the lead. You are ahead of the second-place driver by two laps.
  • If you do not begin the assignment soon, you will have difficulty finishing ahead of the deadline.
  • Will you make arrangements for lodging and airfare ahead of the event?
  • How far ahead do you need to know to make arrangements?
  • Will you be there ahead of the guest of honor? Or will you be arriving late again?
  • You feel like you are on top of the world when you are ahead of the entire pack.
  • I am just checking in to see if we are still on track to arrive ahead of the rest of the team.

A Head

  • I wish our company had a head that considered the work/life balance of the workers.
  • I have a head that can't stop thinking no matter how much you assure me.
  • A head of romanesco broccoli is a richly colored light green spiral of symmetrical florets with smaller spirals. It is so intriguing that even the pickiest eaters want to try it.
  • A head injury can have long-lasting or permanent effects on your life.
  • Please pick up a head of lettuce when you are out running errands.

Final Thoughts on 'Ahead' vs. 'A Head'

You should have a good grasp on the difference between 'ahead' vs. 'a head.' However, we just covered a lot of information.

So, here is a quick recap:

  • 'Ahead' is an adjective or adverb that means before or in front. 
  • 'A head' is a noun phrase that refers to a body part, person, or place.

However, 'a head' is also a common misspelling of 'ahead.' So, you have to be careful not to confuse the two, especially in casual communications when you are not using a grammar checker.

If you get tripped up in the future, come back for a quick refresher. You can also bookmark the confusing words section here to learn about other challenging words and phrases.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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