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Grammar Parts Of Speech 2021-10-11 00:00

Read: Understand the Past Tense

Read, in the Past Tense, Rhymes With...

Do you like to read?

What’s one of the best books you’ve ever read?

Last question: Notice anything about the last words in each of those questions?

Most likely you noticed they are spelled the same and both relate to the same activity: reading. They are, however, pronounced differently. The read at the end of the first question rhymes with seed, while the read in the second question rhymes with bed.

So how do you know which pronunciation to use? Read (like seed) more to find out!


  1. The Meaning of “Read”
  2. Verb Conjugation: A Quick Review
  3. Read and Red and Read and Reed: Homophones
  4. Read in Phrasal Verbs
  5. Which Read is it? Long E or Short? Test Yourself. Pay attention to the tense!
  6. Read as a Noun
  7. Read: A Review

The Meaning of “Read”

Read most often takes the form of a verb, and like many words in the English language, has several related but distinct definitions. The most used definitions for the verb “to read” are

  • To look at, interpret, and comprehend the meaning of written material
  • To verbalize written material, usually to another person who is listening.


We’ll review the other definitions in the Read: Phrasal Verbs and Idioms section of the post.

Verb Conjugation: A Quick Review

Verbs change from their infinitive form in order to match their subject, or show a different tense or different mood. These changes are called verb conjugations.

Regular verbs follow a set of rules or patterns when conjugated. For example, to change form from present to past tense, regular verbs generally add “ed.” “Play” and “add” are regular verbs. Take a look at their conjugated forms, when conjugated based on tense.

Infinitive Simple Present Simple Past Simple Future
To play play played will play
To add add added will add

Irregular Verbs have no use for rules. They live by “the rules are there are no rules!” philosophy. For example, the past tense of the irregular verb “run” is ran, not runned. The past tense of the irregular verb “bring” is brought, not bringed.

Read falls into the irregular verb category. The past tense of “read” is not readed, it’s read (rhymes with fed). Though read (rhymes with fed) is spelled exactly like the present-tense form of the verb, its pronunciation is different.

Read Conjugated


In the chart below, the (L) means that form of read is pronounced with the long e sound,

rhyming with need and creed. The (S)means it is pronounced with the short e sound as in shed and fled.


  • Any form with the “ing” ending has the _long e _sound.
  • Any form that includes has/have/had before read (without the “ing”) has the short e sound.

    Infinitive: to read

Simple Present Simple Past Simple Future
(I, you, they) read (L)
(she/he) reads
read (S) will read (L)
Present Continuous Past Continuous Future Continuous
am/are reading (L) was/were reading (L) will be reading (L)
Present Perfect Past Perfect Future Perfect
have/has read (S) had read (S) will have read (S)
Present Perfect Continuous Past Perfect Continuous Future Perfect Continuous
have/has been reading (L) had been reading (L) will have been reading (L)
Present Participle Past Participle
reading (L) read (S)

The only instance I know of where “reading” rhymes with “bedding” is when it’s referring to a city in the state of Pennsylvania or the (no longer in existence) Reading Co. which was a railroad in Southeast Philadelphia, PA. If you’ve ever played the board game Monopoly (the American version) you may have heard of the Reading Railroad. Now you know how to pronounce it correctly!


If you know other examples of reading rhyming with wedding, let me know!

Read and Red and Read and Reed: Homophones

Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings, spellings, or origins. The past tense of “to read” which is read (rhymes with bread) and red share the same sound, but that’s it.

The present tense to read (rhymes with deed) means sounds like reed, but as with the past tense of read and the word red, that similar sound is all the words have in common.

Red is an adjective that identifies color. It’s the color of blood, marinara sauce, and the most popular roses and sports cars. Red is not an action. It’s not a verb. Read (past tense) is a verb. It means that in the past, you (or another subject) looked at, interpreted, and comprehended some written text.

Reed is not a noun either. In its noun form, a reed is a long, grassy plant that grows in a marsh or a thin blade of cane or metal that is used to play certain instruments.

As an adjective, reed describes instruments that require reeds (the noun) to make sound: a clarinet is a reed instrument.

ProWritingAid’s Homonym Report can help you recognize any possible homophone errors in your work. Be sure to try it out!


Read in Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are phrases that include a verb plus an adverb or prepositions (or both); the meaning of the phrase is different from the meaning of its individual words. For example,

to “call off” an event means to cancel that event even though neither “call” nor “off” means to cancel.

Phrasal verbs are often idiomatic, which means they include expressions and meanings for a language’s native speakers (check out ProWritingAid’s post on idioms for more explanation).

These phrasal verbs and/or idioms are presented in the infinitive form or simple present form (so read rhymes with bleed), but all can be adjusted for past tense too (when read rhymes with head).

  • Read over: to read through something quickly; get an overview
  • Read off: to read out loud from a list
  • Read back: to read, out loud, information someone has just dictated or given
  • Read up on: to learn about something/something by reading about it.
  • Read one’s mind: to know what someone is thinking.
  • Do you read me?: the speaker is saying, “Do you understand me?”
  • Read between the lines: to recognize the real meaning behind the surface or apparent meaning.
  • Read like a book: to completely understand someone—their emotions or intentions
  • Read my lips: the speaker is saying “Pay attention!” or “Listen closely!”
  • Read one’s rights: law enforcement must recite the perpetrator’s legal rights upon arrest.
  • Read the room: to assess/analyze the mood of people in a particular setting and act appropriately in response.
  • Read the fine print: to make certain you are aware of and understand the specific rules/regulations, etc. of an agreement often presented in small print at the end or bottom of the document.
  • Read em and weep: to show results that make you the victor! This idiom is often used in card games (but isn’t limited to that scenario).
  • Read the riot act: to scold harshly.
  • It reads well: this means a work is well written and pleasing to read.
  • Read music: to understand the symbols used in written musical scores.


For even more read idioms, check out thefreedictionary.

Which Read is it? Long E or Short? Test Yourself. Pay attention to the tense!

  1. I cannot read very fast.

  2. She read that entire book yesterday!

  3. You will need to read those instructions carefully.

  4. I would have read it, but I was so tired I fell asleep.

  5. Keep reading! You’ll love the ending.

  6. Please don’t disturb me while I’m reading.

  7. I was reading that last night.

  8. I read it, but I didn’t enjoy it.

  9. He reads aloud to the children every night.

  10. He read aloud to the children every night when they were small.

  11. You can find the answer if you read carefully.

  12. If you had read more carefully, you would have found the answer.

  13. At school, teachers help students learn to read.

  14. They have not read the newspaper yet.

  15. The teacher read to the class.

  16. I read books.

Answers: 1. Long 2. Short 3. Long 4. Short 5. Long 6. Long 7. Long 8. Short 9. Long 10. Short 11. Long 12. Short 13. Long 14. Short 15. Short 16. It depends!

Explanation for item 16: We need more information to determine the correct answer for this “trick” question. If the speaker is making a present-tense statement, then it’s the Long E. If they are answering a question about what they did last week (or some other time in the past), then it’s the short E.

  • Example of past tense: What did you do while you were sitting on the beach?

    I read (rhymes with shred) books.

  • Example of present tense: What do you do for a hobby?

    I read (rhymes with indeed) books.

Read as a Noun

Because the English language loves to keep its readers, writers, speakers, and learners on their toes, read has another function as a noun. For example,

If you give something a read, that means you’ve read through it.

If you enjoy a book or article, you might say “that was a great read.”

If you have a read on something, that means you understand how it works.

When used as a noun, read has the long e sound and is preceded by an article (usually “a”).


Read: A Review

Now that you’ve read through this post, you should have a solid read on when to pronounce read with the long e or short e sound.

If you need a review, read through it again and let the sounds sink in.

How did you do with these last examples? You should have used the short e for the first use of read and the long e sound for the second and third and fourth uses.

Before you go, I’d love to recommend a book I just read (short e). I’m a fan of thoughtful suspense (and rich psychological thrillers) and The Searcher, by Tana French was a great read—I hope you enjoy it!

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