Question from Dawood in Pakistan

What’s the difference between ‘read’ and ’study’?



Hello Dawood. There may sometimes be a confusion between ‘read’ and ’study’, especially when the context is academic, but really these two verbs have quite different meanings.

Let’s look at ‘study‘ first. I think that the first thing to say is that the verb ‘to study’ does not necessarily imply that any reading is done. You can study the night sky, or study an insect’s behaviour or geological formation – none of these require that you ‘read’ anything. What they do require is that you:

  • Apply your mind purposefully to the acquisition of knowledge or understanding of (a subject).

That is one of the definitions of ‘to study’ by the way. Now, of course, you can apply your mind purposefully to aquiring knowledge while you are reading and in that case you would be studying and reading at the same time and the two would be very closely related. Reading is:

  • To examine and grasp the meaning of printed or written characters, as of words or music.

However, if you are reading a comic for fun we wouldn’t say that you were ‘studying the comic ‘- here reading is a recreational activity and you are not really trying to aquire knowledge.

In the case of the comic I would say:

  • I am reading a comic.

You can see that ‘to read’ then does not necessarily imply study. However, if I am studying for an examination or a course and someone asks me what I am doing while I am reading a book on English grammar I could say:

  • I’m reading about English grammar.
  • I’m studying English grammar.

In that case, there is an overlap in meaning or usage between ‘read’ and ’study’.

I’ve simplified the meanings here so that the difference is perhaps easier to understand but ’study’ and ‘read’ have a range of meanings, some overlapping, and if you want to find out more about these two verbs I am including here some definitions from


v., read reading, reads.

  1. To examine and grasp the meaning of (written or printed characters, words, or sentences).
  2. To utter or render aloud (written or printed material): read poems to the students.
  3. To have the ability to examine and grasp the meaning of (written or printed material in a given language or notation): reads Chinese; reads music.
    1. To examine and grasp the meaning of (language in a form other than written or printed characters, words, or sentences): reading Braille; reading sign language.
    2. To examine and grasp the meaning of (a graphic representation): reading a map.
    1. To discern and interpret the nature or significance of through close examination or sensitive observation: The tracker read the trail for signs of game.
    2. To discern or anticipate through examination or observation; descry: I can read abandonment in a broken door or shattered window (William H. Gass).
  4. To determine the intent or mood of: can read your mind like a book; a hard person to read.
    1. To attribute a certain interpretation or meaning to: read her words differently than I did.
    2. To consider (something written or printed) as having a particular meaning or significance: read the novel as a parable.
  5. To foretell or predict (the future).
  6. To receive or comprehend (a radio message, for example): I read you loud and clear.
  7. To study or make a study of: read history as an undergraduate.
  8. To learn or get knowledge of from something written or printed: read that interest rates would continue to rise.
  9. To proofread.
  10. To have or use as a preferred reading in a particular passage: For change read charge.
  11. To indicate, register, or show: The dial reads 32 degrees.
  12. Computer Science. To obtain (data) from a storage medium, such as a magnetic disk.
  13. Genetics. To decode or translate a sequence of messenger RNA into an amino acid sequence in a polypeptide chain.


  1. To examine and grasp the meaning of printed or written characters, as of words or music.
  2. To speak aloud the words that one is reading: read to the children every night.
  3. To learn by reading: read about the storm in the paper today.
  4. To study.
  5. To have a particular wording: Recite the poem exactly as it reads.
  6. To contain a specific meaning: As the law reads, the defendant is guilty.
  7. To indicate, register, or show a measurement or figure: How does your new watch read?
  8. To have a specified character or quality for the reader: Your poems read well.


n., pl. -ies.

    1. The act or process of studying.
    2. The pursuit of knowledge, as by reading, observation, or research.
  1. Attentive scrutiny.
  2. A branch of knowledge.
  3. studies A branch or department of learning: graduate studies.
    1. A work, such as a thesis, that results from studious endeavor.
    2. A literary work on a particular subject.
    3. A preliminary sketch, as for a work of art or literature.
  4. Music. A composition intended as a technical exercise.
  5. A state of mental absorption: She is in a deep study.
  6. A room intended or equipped for studying or writing.
  7. One who memorizes something, especially a performer who memorizes a part: He is a quick study.

v., -ied, -ying, -ies.

  1. To apply one’s mind purposefully to the acquisition of knowledge or understanding of (a subject).
  2. To read carefully.
  3. To memorize.
  4. To take (a course) at a school.
  5. To inquire into; investigate.
  6. To examine closely; scrutinize.
  7. To give careful thought to; contemplate: study the next move.


  1. To apply oneself to learning, especially by reading.
  2. To pursue a course of study.
  3. To ponder; reflect.

[Middle English studie, from Old French estudie, from Latin studium, from stud??re, to study.]