Word Confusion: Read versus Reed

Posted July 24, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Nope, reed is not the present or past tense for read. (The pronunciation for present tense read sounds like reed, making this Word Confusion pair an heterograph.)

Nor is it acceptable to use reed as a “dialect” for read, for oh, so many reasons.

I’ll agree that you can read the reeds to determine windspeed or to track some critter, and reeds are used to make paper that someone, somewhere, is gonna read. But nowhere does it track that “I reed books”. I know I’ve read some books, but I’ve never reed any.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

If you found this post on “Read versus Reed” interesting, consider tweeting it to your friends. Subscribe to KD Did It, if you’d like to track this post for future updates.

Return to top

Read Reed
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Collins: reed

Perched on tires embedded into the ground of a grassy field, three young boys read.

“Boys Read on Tires” is BigBrotherMouse’s own work under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

To read is to escape into other worlds.


A nature trail of floating planks leading off into the distance between very tall reeds

The 2017 “Birdsong Nature Trail” is in Dinnyés quarter, Fejér County, Hungary, and is Globetrotter19’s own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Entering the Szikes tour entrance, you’ll note that gumboots are needed to hike through the reeds.

Part of Grammar:
Noun;
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: reads
Past tense or past participle: read
Gerund or present participle: reading

Adjective; Noun;
Verb, transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: reeds
Past tense or past participle: reeded
Gerund or present participle: reeding

Adjective:
[Usually used in combination] Having knowledge gained by reading

Take something as read, to take something for granted as a fact

  • Understand
  • Presume

Noun:
Usually a singular noun


[US] A person’s interpretation of something

  • [With adjective; informal] A book considered in terms of its readability
  • [Chiefly British] A period or act of reading something

Verb, intransitive:
Look at and comprehend the meaning of written or printed matter by mentally interpreting the characters or symbols of which it is composed

  • Speak the written or printed matter that one is reading aloud, typically to another person
  • Have the ability to look at and comprehend the meaning of written or printed matter
  • Discover information by reading it in a written or printed source
  • [Of a piece of writing] Convey a specified impression to the reader
  • [Of a passage, text, or sign] Contain or consist of specified words
    • Have a certain wording
  • [Read for; of an actor] Audition for a part in a play or film

Inspect and record the figure indicated on a measuring instrument

  • [Of a measuring instrument] Indicate a specified measurement or figure

[Chiefly British] Study an academic subject at a university

Verb, transitive:
Look at and comprehend the meaning of written or printed matter by mentally interpreting the characters or symbols of which it is composed

  • Speak the written or printed matter that one is reading aloud, typically to another person
  • Habitually read a particular newspaper or journal
  • Discover information by reading it in a written or printed source
  • Discern a fact, emotion, or quality in someone’s eyes or expression
  • Understand or interpret the nature or significance of:
  • Used to indicate that a particular word in a text or passage is incorrect and that another should be substituted for it
  • [Of a device] Obtain data from light or other input

Inspect and record the figure indicated on a measuring instrument

[Chiefly British] Study an academic subject at a university

[Of a computer] Copy, transfer, or interpret data

  • Enter or extract data in an electronic storage device

Hear and understand the words of someone speaking on a radio transmitter

Adjective:
Designating an instrument whose sound is produced by a vibrating reed or reeds

Composed of or for such an instrument or instruments

Noun:
A tall, slender-leaved plant of the grass family that grows in water or on marshy ground

  • Used in names of plants similar to reeds, growing in wet habitats
  • The tall, thin, straight stalk of a reed, used especially as material for thatching
  • Reeds growing in a mass or used as material, especially for making thatch or household items
  • [Literary] A rustic musical pipe made from a reed or from straw

A thing or person resembling or likened to a reed, in particular:

  • A weak or impressionable person
  • [Literary; archaic] An arrow
  • A weaver’s comblike implement of a series of vertical parallel wires on a loom for separating the threads of the warp and correctly positioning the weft
  • [Reeds] Semicylindrical adjacent moldings grouped like reeds laid together

[Music] A piece of thin cane or metal, sometimes doubled, that vibrates in a current of air to produce the sound of various musical instruments, as in the mouthpiece of a clarinet or oboe, at the base of some organ pipes, and as part of a set in the accordion and harmonica

  • A wind instrument played with a reed
  • An organ stop with reed pipes

An electrical contact used in a magnetically operated switch or relay

An ancient Hebrew unit of length equal to six cubits

Broken reed

Verb, transitive:
To fashion into or supply with reeds or reeding

To thatch using reeds

Examples:
Adjective:
She is an uncommonly well-read person.

George is a widely read individual.

Noun:
I hate to say it, but their read on the national situation may be correct.

The book is a thoroughly entertaining read.

I was having a quiet read of the newspaper.

Verb, intransitive:
I read about the course in a magazine.

The brief note read like a cry for help.

The placard read “We want justice”.

He read for the part last week.

The thermometer read 0° C.

He went to Manchester to read for a BA in Economics.

Verb, transitive:
It’s the best novel I’ve ever read.

I never learned to read music.

Emily read over her notes.

The charges against him were read out.

His mother read him a bedtime story.

He was arrested yesterday — I read it in the paper.

She looked down, terrified that he would read fear on her face.

He didn’t dare look away, in case this was read as a sign of weakness.

For madam, read madman.

Will you read off the temperature on the calorimeter?

I’ve come to read the gas meter.

I’m reading English at Cambridge.

Adjective:
The saxophone is a reed instrument.

Their reed section is jumping.

I adore reeded glass.

Spend the day staring at coatwork, and you can develop reed blindness.

Noun:
Norfolk reed is one of the types of reeds used for thatching.

Bur reed grows in wet habitats.

I’ve just finished making a reed curtain.

There are clumps of reed and grass all over.

He plays a reed pipe.

The jurors were mere reeds in the wind.

He was as thin as a reed.

She pulled the reed through the strands of wool.

The saxophone uses reeds.

A reed pipe in an organ works through vibration.

A reed switch is operates magnetically.

Verb, transitive:
We’ll be reeding Jones’ cottage next week.

Derivatives:
Adjective: read-only, read-write, readable, readerly
Adverb: readably
Noun: read-in, read-through, readability, reader, reading, readout, readership
Adjective: reeded, reedier, reediest, reedlike, reedy
Noun: reediness, reeding,
Phrasal Verb
read something into
read someone out of
read up on something
History of the Word:
Old English rǣdan is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch raden and the German raten meaning advise, guess. Early senses included advise and interpret (a riddle or dream). Old English hrēod is related to the Dutch riet and the German Ried.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

Return to top

Pinterest Photo Credits:

KOCIS Korea Autumn SkyPark 09” is courtesy of Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service (Jeon Han?? may be the photographer) under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons. The detail from “The Reading Tree” is by Kathy Davie.


Leave a Reply