READ: simple past tense, past participle and perfect

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“Read” is one of the most necessary and commonly used verbs in the English language that you simply cannot live without. Below we explore its past tense usage.

The verb “read” is one of the so-called irregular verbs that we have to memorize. Fortunately, all the forms of this verb are exactly the same.

READ verbs forms

Infinitive Past Tense Past Participle
Read /riːd/ Read / red/ Read /red/


Simple past tense: ‘read’ /ri:d/

The 2nd form (past tense of the verb “read) is seemingly the same as its infinitive form. The only difference is in the pronunciation.

While in the infinitive “read” is pronounced as / riːd /, in the 2nd form the pronunciation of “read” is / red /. Be careful to make the distinction between the two!

The form “read” / red / is used only in the past simple (read). It is used in sentences where an action has already happened, either once or repeatedly.

For the past simple, we do not distinguish the singular or the plural form of this verb, nor do we distinguish it in the 3rd person. In the past simple tense, it is necessary to distinguish the positive and negative meaning of a sentence.

While the verb “read” is used only in positive sentences, it must be combined with additional verbs if used in a negative sentence. For the negative, we use the infinitive “read” in combination with the negative “did not“.

The following example will provide more clarity:


“I read your message.”                                                           /red/

„I did not read your message.“                                             /ri:d/

„He did not read your message.“                                          /ri:d/


Past participle: ‘read’

The 3rd form of the verb “read” is pronounced the same way as in the previous example – it means /red/, shortly.

Although this form of the word is not often used, it is necessary to understand when the verb “read”  /red/  is used in the past simple tense (past tens of read), as well as when it’s used in the past perfect tense (past participle of read).

The 3rd form of the verb is used in the past and present perfect. These are more complex tenses which are usually applied in longer sentences. The past perfect expresses events that took place before a certain point in the past.

The past perfect tense combines the verb “read” /red/ with the additional verb “had”. The following example will provide more clarity as to how the past perfect tense is used.


“I knew it because I had read your book.”         /red/

“Had read” is used here, because the fact that I read your book led me to know it. The reading happened before a certain point in the event (before I knew it). Due to this sequence of events, we have to use “had read”.

I knew it (past simple) because I had read your book (past perfect).

Past continuous: ‘was reading’

The past continuous is formed by adding the verb “was” (for the singular of the 1st and 3rd person), or “were” (others). The suffix ‘-ing-‘ is added to the end of the verb “read”.

The past continuous tense is used when an activity occurred in the past or when the activity happened at a certain moment in time.


“I was reading a book for 4 hours.”

„We were reading this book all night.“

The exact time interval when the activity happened (4 hours) is explicitly stated in the above example. As a result, we use the verb “read” in the form “was reading”.

Do you now have a clear understanding of how to use the verb “read”, or do you still need some practice?

More examples of verbs in the past participle form

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