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Read, Read

When Is Read ‘Red’ and When Is Read ‘Reed’?

by Owen Fourie

When you read a book, how well do you remember what you have read?

This question is posed here not to get your answer but to illustrate the point of the two pronunciations of the word read.

Native English speakers have no problem with this, but ESL or EFL speakers can stumble at this point, initially.

Say read or read. Huh?

In the following exercise, when is read pronounced “reed” and when is it pronounced “red”? Test yourself before peeking at the answers below.

  1. Anyone who would like to write essays or stories must read what others have written.
  2. Good writers are people who have read a great variety of works.
  3. Your writing skills should improve once you have read many books.
  4. Many people like to read; others either don’t have time to read, or they don’t like to read.
  5. I read three books last week.
  6. If you would like to write well, it is necessary to read much and to read widely.
  7. Have you read any of O. Henry’s short stories?
  8. Do you read only what interests you?
  9. Once you have read what is relevant to you, don’t stop; go on to read books of a different genre and open doors to new interests.
  10. Often, when researching, you should read related subject matter.
  11. Once you have read widely, you will have a better grasp of your particular topic.

A simple rule

For your guidance, and to put the matter simply:

“Reed” is often the pronunciation for read but say “red” when you use the past tense and when you use the verbs has, have, had, or having.

With this simple rule in mind, the eleven sentences of the above exercise are repeated below with the pronunciation indicated:

  1. Anyone who would like to write essays or stories must read [reed] what others have written.
  2. Good writers are people who have read [red] a great variety of works.
  3. Your writing skills should improve once you have read [red] many books.
  4. Many people like to read [reed]; others either don’t have time to read [reed], or they don’t like to read [reed].
  5. I read [red] three books last week.
  6. If you would like to write well, it is necessary to read [reed] much and to read [reed] widely.
  7. Have you read [red] any of O. Henry’s short stories?
  8. Do you read [reed] only what interests you?
  9. Once you have read [red] what is relevant to you, don’t stop; go on to read [reed] books of a different genre and open doors to new interests.
  10. Often, when researching, you should read [reed] related subject matter.
  11. Once you have read [red] widely, you will have a better grasp of your particular topic.

The grammar of read and read

To put the matter in more grammatical detail:

Say “reed” for

  • the infinitive: To read is good.
  • the imperative: Let’s read.
  • the present indicative: They read well.
  • the future indicative: They will read the story tomorrow night.
  • the interrogative past indicative and the negative past indicative: Did he read the story last night? He did not read the story last night.

Say “red” for

  • the past participle: Having read the story, she went to bed.
  • the past indicative: She read the story last night.
  • the present perfect indicative: He has read the story, too.
  • the future perfect indicative: They will have read the story by next Monday.
  • the past perfect indicative: They had read the story before its author became famous.

If you find the grammatical terms confusing, don’t worry about them. Look at the examples, get to know them, and they will help you to pronounce read correctly.

What will you read after you have read this article? Did you get the pronunciation right in that question?

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Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome. Are there other instances where there is a difference in the pronunciation of a single word, but you are not sure what that pronunciation should be? Ask here for clarification.

Here are more articles to help you with English words, grammar, and essay writing.

Copyright © 2012 by English Essay Writing Tips www.englishessaywritingtips.com


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