Past tense of read

Read may just be the trickiest irregular verb there is in English. This four letter verb even confuses native speakers when they see it in books and articles, so if you find it difficult don’t worry. It’s completely normal.

Look below to find out more about the past tense of read.

Woman reading book during the evening at home close up.

What does read mean?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, to read means to look at and understand symbols. In its present tense, read (riːd) is pronounced as rEEd, with emphasis on the e’s.

Conjugations with the word read

The table below shows the verb conjugation for each of the tenses, plus how to pronounce them.

Present tensereadriːd
3rd person singularreadsriːdz
Past Simplereadrɛd
Past Participle formreadrɛd
Gerundreadingriːdɪŋ

Why is there so much confusion with its past form?

The confusion is understandable; both the present form and the past form of read are spelt in the exact same way.

It is the pronunciation that sets them apart. As mentioned above, the present tense read is pronounced as rEEd (riːd).

Instead, the past simple and participle of read is pronounced differently. It sounds like the colour red (rɛd), but is spelt read.

It is important to remember that read is not one of the regular verbs so the word readed does not exist.

Take 5: look at the present tense and past tense of read and repeat them

What tenses do we use the past form of read with?

The past tense of read is used for past simple sentences and perfect tenses such as the present perfect tense and the past perfect tense. It is a past simple verb and a past participle.

Let’s look at some sentences below.

Read in the Past Simple Tense

The sentence construction for read in the Past Simple is the same as any other verb: subject + read + rest of clause.

Look at these past simple examples of read.

She read Moby Dick at school

I read the newspaper

Lisa read the script for the video

Ian read the transcripts in their native language

Jonathan read all the books

Read in the Present Perfect Tense

The sentence form for read in the Present Perfect tense is: subject + have/has + read + rest of clause.

Look at these present perfect examples of read.

Michelle has read the answers and didn’t agree.

Martin has read all the Christmas cards they have written.

They have read the reports from the students

Daniel has read the sentences

She has read the English grammar book

He listened to the audiobook and then he read the story

Read in the Past Perfect Tense

The sentence form for read in the past perfect tense is: subject + had + read + rest of clause.

Look at these Past Perfect examples of read.

Coco had read all the spelling mistakes.

Simon had read through the night before he went to sleep.

Beth had read a book a week and her pronunciation became better.

Laura read Harry Potter at school. Before that, she had read a bit of a newspaper.

Read as an adjective

Read also appears in the adjective well-read. You use this to describe a person who is very educated or intelligent.

Here, the read in well-read is pronounced the same as in the Past Simple form rɛd.

An example of this is:

Helen went to Cambridge University, where she got her PhD. Her family and friends say she is a well-read person.

Test yourself

Look again at how the present and past tense of read is pronounced differently. Then try and say these sentences. Do it with a friend or record yourself!

1) I read poems last night.

2) She had read a thriller before, but didn’t like it and chose a romance story instead.

3) Emma is in Mensa; she is a well-read person.

4) I like to read everyday.

5) I have read the book Justin is currently reading.

Need more help? Then check out our video on irregular past tense forms here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSrHqSFEdCI