Word Choice: Reed vs. Read
  • 3-minute read
  • 17th October 2022

Word Choice: Reed vs. Read

The words ‘reed’ and ‘read’ are homophones. They might sound alike when spoken aloud, but they are in fact different words with very different meanings.

In this post, we show you how to use these words correctly in your writing.

Reed: A Wetland Plant or Musician’s Tool

The word ‘reed’ is a noun, and usually refers to a type of tall, thin plant that grows in wet or marshy environments.

For example:

Papyrus is a type of reed.

The frog disappeared into the reeds.

The man was as skinny as a reed.

In British English, ‘reed’ can mean the stalks of these plants when used for thatching:

The cottage’s roof was made of reed.

‘Reed’ can also refer to a tool used to play certain types of instrument. In this case, it is a thin strip of metal or cane that vibrates when blown: 

You cannot play a saxophone without a reed.

The oboe is a reed instrument.

The word ‘reed’ is not in any way related to the word ‘read’, which we will look at next.

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Read: To Gain Meaning from Written Words

‘Read’ is the present tense form of the verb ‘to read’. It describes the act of looking at a piece of writing in order to understand the meaning of the words:

I can read French but not speak it.

The toddler can’t read yet.

She likes to read about thermodynamics.

It can also be used as a noun to refer to an act or period of reading:

Today’s blog post makes for a good read.

He sat down for his evening read.

Confusingly, the present and past form of the verb ‘to read’ are both spelt ‘read’. However, while the present form of ‘read’ rhymes with ‘reed’, the past tense rhymes with ‘bread’.

Summary: Reed or Read?

While these words sound the same, they should never be confused with one another. 

  • Reed is a noun meaning a thin plant that grows near water, a material used in thatching, or a part of a musical instrument.
  • Read is the present tense form of the verb ‘to read’, which is the act of gaining meaning from written words. It can also be used as a noun meaning a period of reading.

As long as you know that these two are very different words, you should be able to use them correctly.

It might help to remember that ‘read’ has the letter ‘a’ in it – the first letter of the alphabet, which you must learn before you can read anything.

And if you still struggle with using the correct word or spelling, our team of expert proofreaders are always here to help.

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