Read vs. Read: What’s The Difference?

The English language is very complicated when it comes to grammar. There are always words that break the preexisting rules and follow their own path. One of these words is “read.” This is a word that can be said in two different ways, meaning either the present or past tense. However, they are spelled the same. It is important to know when to use each word so that you do not get confused when trying to read something that you haven’t already read. Let’s look at this easily confused word and its history.

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Definition of Read

To better understand a word it is always helpful to look at its definition. The word read is defined as, “to receive or take in the sense of letters or symbols especially by sight or touch.” It is also defined as, “To study the movements with mental formulation of the communication expressed.” According to its conjugation, the present tense of read is reading, and the simple past tense is read (pronounced like red) which we will look at further later on. 

History and Origin of the Word

When looking at a word and its usage it can be useful to look at where the word came from and how it evolved to what it is today. According to the etymology of read, it comes from the 12th century and the Old English word “redan” which meant “to advise, counsel, persuade, discuss, deliberate, rule, guide, arrange or equip.”The root “re-” means “to reason or count.” 

To read in the sense of “making out the character of someone” came about in the 1600s. 

Synonyms for Read

Another helpful way to learn about a word is to read about similar words. That way, you can understand the contexts of the word and ones just like it.

Here are some synonyms of the act of reading:

  • Study means to devote time and attention to acquiring knowledge on a subject.
  • Peruse means to examine carefully or at length.
  • Interpret means to understand an action, mood, or way of behaving as having a particular meaning or significance. 

Example Sentences of the Word in Context

Another good way to learn a word and apply it to your own vocabulary is to hear it used properly.  Reading it or hearing a word used in its correct context is a great way to learn how to use it yourself.  Take a look at the following sentences for examples:

  • I hope that you are going to read the new book I wrote soon — it’s really a good read.
  • If she does not read at least twice a day for 30 minutes she feels unaccomplished.
  • If you want to learn how to read it might be helpful to start with small words.
  • She read her best friend’s recent post on social media before she had to log out. 

Past Tense of Read

As previously mentioned, the past tense of read is read. These words are spelled the same but pronounced differently. Read in the present tense has a long “e” sound, and read in the past tense has a short “e” sound. The only way to know which word is meant when it is written is by the context of the sentence. 

There are two types of verbs in the English language, regular and irregular. The regular verbs are composed of words that the past tense and the participle are formed by adding an “ed” at the end. Irregular verbs have three subcategories. 

  • Verbs where all forms are the same, like the word cut.
  • Verbs where two of the forms are the same as the words sit, sat, and sat.
  • Verbs where all three forms are different, like the words ring, rang, and rung.

The past tense of read is the first type of irregular verb listed above. That is why it remains unchanged in all forms of itself. 

Read vs. Red

You might be wondering, if read (past tense) is pronounced the same as red, then what is the difference.

The spelling of the word red is only used when describing a primary color that is the first color on the visible light spectrum with the longest wavelength, next to orange and opposite violet. Red is an adjective, whereas read is usually used as a verb.

Types of Reading

There are actually different ways to read something and it usually falls under one of these four categories. 

  • Scanning is used for only finding the necessary information in a text. The concepts will not be fully understood in this mode of reading. This is also called diagonal reading. 
  • Skimming is used to understand the information that is useful to you, in a quick way. The goal of this mode of reading is to evaluate the text for its complexity and the main idea.
  • Extensive reading is used to get familiar with new info and not be distracted by unfamiliar words.
  • Intensive reading is mostly used in the study of English to be able to parse the proposed text. Grammatical construction and unfamiliar words are closely looked at in this mode of reading.
  • It is also possible to misread something — which means that it was read incorrectly. 

Besides reading a document or a magazine, the word read can be used figuratively as well. You can “read” a person by studying what they are like and how they act and talk. 

In pop culture, the word read can also be used as an insult. This became popularized by drag queen culture, which often influences popular culture. If you “read” someone in this sense, you call them out for something, usually having to do with their physical appearance. 

In Summary

Now that you understand why the past tense of read is read, and what it means, you can easily identify which word is being used in a written form of communication. English has many rules and words that don’t follow rules which makes it one of the most difficult languages to learn. Whether you’re in high school or ESL classes, after reading this article you should be fully prepared to use the word read and the word read.