What Is the Past Tense of Read

In the English language, most words using a past or present tense typically end with a suffix that clearly separates the same word into two different versions of itself. This clear difference makes it easier to learn when and how to use this word properly when it pertains to a certain point in time. Words such as “love” are a prime example of when describing a past feeling such as “loved”. The suffix “ed” clearly re-classifies this feeling as a past emotion, therefore separating the present and past into two different clarifications. Several words at a suffix such as “eating or eaten”, “rake or raked”, “push or pushed” all have alternative endings to keep the timeline of events apparent.

However, the past tense of “read” is unclear. There is no added suffix to separate the two uses of the word. Understandably so, it seems and feels trickier to learn the specific difference when the differences themselves are identical. But there are rules and ways to understand what these differences are.

The Past Tense of “Read”

Despite the lack of suffixes, “read” does share a similarity with the other past tense words. The use of the sentence around it.

Readjusting the sentence used around “read” will swiftly impact the meaning behind the word entirely. There is a clear distinction between the sentences “I read” and “I have read”. When you look at the two sentences, notice the difference in meaning?

Almost automatically the short phrase “I read” portrays the action as being done here and now. It’s generalized into a current or casual moment. Either we gather it’s being done now, or it’s a hobby the subject is occasionally enjoying on several moments in time.

However, observe what it says in “I have read”. Adding the word “have” changes the meaning of the sentence almost entirely. “Have” is being used here as past tense, thereby changing the pronunciation and definition of “read”. This makes “read” past tense as well.

Now when you look at the phrase “I have read”, it clearly means the subject was reading something before and likely completed it already. It’s no longer generalize or assumed to be continuing.

The tricky part is determining which words can change the meaning and in what way. The two ways to pronounce “read” are shown below.

  • “reed”(present tense)
  • “red”(past tense)

When telling the sentence “I have read”, “read” is pronounced as “red”. This is past tense. However, pronouncing “read” as “reed” may also be used as past tense when the word it’s next to is past tense first. Take this new sentence for example. “I did read.”

In this instance, “read” is being pronounced as “reed” because the word behind it, “did”, is already acting as a past tense word. This is unlike the sentence “I have read” where the word “have” is not necessarily past tense until it shows next to the past tense form of “read”. Essentially, it’s all about which word does which job. If “read” is next to a word that is already past tense, it does not have to be past tense itself.”

Here are some examples between “read” present tense and “read” past tense.

  • (read present tense) “I read a lot of books.”
  • (read past tense) “I have read a lot of books.”
  • (read present tense) “He is reading every chapter.”
  • (read past tense) “He did his reading for every chapter.”

“Read” Past Simple

Past simple verbs, also known as simple past tense or preterite, describe an action that occurred at a specific point in the past. “Read(red)” is past tense but it doesn’t clarify when exactly it took place, only that it happened already.

Read past simple is typically used with an adverbial phrase that indeed specifies when something happened and pinpoints how recent it was. Here’s a new sentence for you. “I have read my book yesterday.”

The word “yesterday” is an adverbial phrase for showing at what point it happened, making the sentence itself past simple. Shortening the sentence to “I have read my book.” would have left it simply past tense and unclear onto when the book was read. Here are multiple examples of the difference between “read” past tense and “read” past simple.

  • (Past tense) “I did read it.”
  • (Past simple) “I did read it last year.”
  • (Past tense) “She will read the label.”
  • (Past simple) “She will read the label in an hour.”
  • (Past tense) “He read his assignment.”
  • (past simple) “Yesterday, he read his assignment.”

The Past Tense of “Read”

Ultimately, the best way to learn is to practice. The past tense of read isn’t always going to be obvious. There are countless examples in the English language on ways to use it. Past, present, and future ways to use it all lie with how the sentence you’re reading or writing is presented.


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