The Past Tense of Read: Here’s What It Is and How to Use It

Learning languages can be a really exciting way to learn about a different culture, its country, and its people.  However, language can also pose several challenges due to the fact that languages often do not follow their own rules. 

 Anyone who has ever studied a second or even third language can attest to the fact that grammatical rules can be the most difficult part to learn, from complicated verb tenses to noun declensions that cover both singular, plural, gender, and case, to the lists of pronouns that older languages like Latin supply. Even English teachers will admit to this. In short, English grammar is difficult.

The English language is widely considered to be one of the most difficult languages to learn just based on the fact that it tends to struggle with following most of its own rules.  Part of the reason for this difficulty in learning English is that English borrows (or just completely steals) most of its grammar from other languages.  English is an etymological mashup of several different languages, which causes several common grammar mistakes.

In this article, let’s explore the infinitive “to read,” learn its proper use, how to use its past tense, look for its synonyms, and learn its etymology and context. Hopefully, this will help you on your quest to learn English. 

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Why Is the Past Tense of Read Read?

To first understand a word, its history, and how to use it properly, it is important to first define what it actually means.  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the English verb read can be defined as “to receive or take in the sense of (letters, symbols, etc.), especially by sight or touch, to study the movements of with mental formulation of the communication expressed.”.  A secondary definition is to become acquainted with or look over the contents of (something, such as a book), e.g., to read over a piece of documentation.  Overall, there are more than forty definitions listed for the verb “to read” in both transitive and intransitive forms. 

The correct simple past tense of the verb to read is just “read.”  According to WordHippo, while the present tense of the verb is “to read” (with the third person plural being “reads”), the past tense is also read, but it is pronounced “red” rather than “reed”.  The confusion inherent in the grammar does pretty much come down to the pronunciation at the end of the day with this irregular verb.  So, in short, the past tense of read is also read in pretty much any context.  Past tense verbs can be tricky like this. We will discuss context later on in this article.  

What Are the 3 Forms of Read?

There are actually three different forms of the word “read,” and they all work in different contexts.  Here they are:

  • Read: sounds like need, and is the simple present tense of the verb.
  • Read: sounds like red, and is the past tense of the verb.
  • Read: sounds like red, but is the past participle of the verb, and is used in the context of things that have happened in your life.  For example, “I have read that book in the past.”  

What Is the Past and Past Participle of Read?

The correct past tense of read is also spelled “read,” but it is pronounced like the color red rather than the plant, a reed.  The past participle, which is the third form of the verb, is always preceded by the word “have,” and it conveys a completed action in someone’s past (e.g., I have read, I have done, I have been, etc.).  Both “read” and “have read” are past tense, but usually, the past participle is used for when people are describing an action in their past that is completed.

As a side note, if you’re curious about any other verb forms, the present participle, or gerund, of read is reading— for example, you would say “I am reading.” In the future tense, in both American English and British English, we say “will read,” as in “they will read, he/she will read.” The past perfect tense would be “have/has been reading.”

The word “read” also has a noun form, but it is not used often, and because it is a noun, it has no tense or conjugation (past, present, or future).    

The History and Origin of the Word

One of the best ways to understand a word is to learn where it came from.  A word’s etymology can reveal a lot about the changes a word has gone through to get to where it is today in modern English.  According to, the word “to read” first entered modern English from the Old English word “raedan,” which came from the Anglian word “redan,” which was translated “to advise, counsel, persuade, discuss, deliberate, rule, or guide.”  Words from most of this root in most modern languages still mean counsel or advise, but also mean “to understand the meaning of written symbols.”  

The word came from the Latin word “legere,” which means to read as well.  Much of the vocabulary in modern English actually comes from ancient Latin or Greek by way of other modern European languages such as Italian, Spanish, or French.  

Examples of the Word in Context

Another great way to learn how to use a word is to explore the word being used correctly.  Either reading the word in its proper context or hearing someone else use it in conversation.  Here are some common examples of the word “to read” (and its past tense, also read) in context:

  • “Are you going to read the assignment for this week?  Or are you just planning on looking over the Sparknotes?”
  • “Have you read the most recent news article about the earthquakes on the west coast?  Things seem to be getting pretty rough.”
  • “He read the lyrics and got really emotional.  It seemed like the song really hit close to home.”

Synonyms for Read

Finally, to really solidify a word into your vocabulary, it is useful to explore words with similar or same definitions.  The more words you know that can fit into a specific context, the easier it will be to remember which ones to use.  Here are some synonyms for the verb “to read”:

  • To peruse means to read quickly, to glance over
  • To devour means to read deeply and often
  • To scrutinize means to read with very specific intent and focus