'Read' or 'Read': What's the Difference Between the Two?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on February 7, 2023

'Read' or 'read': what's the difference? They look exactly the same, so aren't they the same word? Let's find out.

The short answer is that 'read' and 'read' are two different conjugations of the same verb. They are pronounced differently and have different meanings.

What's the Difference Between 'Read' or 'Read'?

As you know, many verbs in the English language are irregular, which means that their conjugation doesn't align with usual conventions.

This is the case with 'read.'

'Read,' depending on how you pronounce it and the context you use it in, can be either the infinitive, present indefinite, past indefinite, or past participle tenses of the verb.

It's also the base form of the verb, so you could even create other tenses with it by adding auxiliary verbs. For example:

I will read your article tomorrow.

She had read the entire book by sundown.

To know precisely which tense it is and therefore deduct how you should pronounce it, you'll need to consider the rest of the sentence and the context.

Definition of 'Read'

So what does this verb actually mean? To 'read' is to look at words as symbols and decode the meaning. You can read a book, a magazine, or an online article like the one you are reading right now. If there are letters, then you are reading.

Interestingly, 'read' can also be a noun, as in:

Let's have a read.

That was a great read.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Read' (Present Tense)

When using the word 'read' in the infinitive or present indefinite tense, you should pronounce it with a long 'e' so that it rhymes with 'feed.' Like such:

[ reed ]

Here's how the International Phonetics Alphabet spells it:

/ rid /

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Read' (Past Tense)

When using the word 'read' in the past indefinite or past participle tenses, you should pronounce it with a short 'e' so that it rhymes with 'red.'

And the International Phonetics Alphabet spells it like this:

/ rɛd /

When to Use 'Read' or 'Read'

Let's take a look at some examples of sentences that use the verb 'read' in their different pronunciations. We'll start with 'read' when it rhymes with 'feed.'

Example Sentences of 'Read' (Present Tense)

I read the newspaper every morning on the commute to work.

Any time she has a spare moment, all she wants to do is to read.

The publishers said they'll read my first draft as soon as I email it over.

The waiting room is over there; there are magazines for you to read while you wait.

Thank you for your patience as I read out a few housekeeping rules

Example Sentences of 'Read' (Past Tense)

Now for some example sentences using 'read' when it rhymes with 'red.'

Have you read the movie's reviews? It got some pretty good ratings.

I read somewhere that they were opening a new theatre. Is that true?

She's already read it.

I've never read the bible, have you?

She read the note on the fridge door, her heart beating fast in her chest.

Concluding Thoughts on 'Read' or 'Read'

Hopefully, this has helped you feel more confident about your usage of these two forms of the verb. Here's a summary of what we've learned today:

  • 'Read' rhymes with 'feed' and is the infinitive or present participle of the verb 'to read.'
  • 'Read' rhymes with 'red' and is the past participle or past indefinite form of the verb 'to read.'

And if you're in the learning mood, why not head over to our blog? We've covered many other confusing words like these.

Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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