Phrasal verbs for reading

by Kate Woodford

Rekha Garton/DigitalVision/Getty

Sometimes we read to find out information and at other times, we read simply for pleasure. We may read the whole of a text or only parts of it. To describe the different ways in which we read, we often use phrasal verbs. This week, then, we take a look at those ‘reading’ phrasal verbs, focusing on the slight differences in meaning between them.

Starting with phrases for reading only parts of a book or magazine, etc., there are a number of phrasal verbs with the particle ‘through’ that describe the action of quickly turning several pages of a book or magazine, looking briefly at the text or pictures:

I was flicking through a glossy magazine.

I flipped through their catalogue while I was waiting.

Sam sat, leafing idly through a newspaper.

I thumbed through the report quickly over breakfast.

In UK English, if you dip into a book, you only read a small part of it at any one time: It’s a book for dipping into rather than reading all the way through.

Other phrasal verbs emphasize that you read all of something, but read it very quickly. If you read through or over something, you read it quickly from beginning to end, especially in order to find mistakes: I always read through my essays before handing them in. If you skim through or over something, you read all of it very quickly and not carefully, often just to understand the main points: I’ve just skimmed through the report – I’ll read it in detail later.

Meanwhile, if you pore over a book or document, you read it very carefully, concentrating and taking in all the details: When I left, Sophie was poring over a text book.

Some phrasal verbs emphasize how much text there is to read. If you wade through or plough through a great deal of information, you spend a lot of time and effort reading it, (often when it is boring or difficult):

I had to wade through pages of technical details.

There are still pages of documentation to plough through.

If you read up on a subject, you spend time reading in order to find out information about it: I thought I’d better read up on the company’s products before attending the interview.

Finally, to read something out is to say the words as you read them so that others can hear you: He read out the results of the competition.

47 thoughts on “Phrasal verbs for reading

    1. Wiz lee

      Quick, not quickly reading, dg. By the way, what I’ve known is “skim” and “scan”, which is ubiquitous in the world.
      Fabulous one kate, I’m just simply DREADING your next!

      1. abdulkhader khandalazk

        I find it very useful and knowledgeable to comprehend certain first time heard phrases. Thank you..

  1. Hi Kate,

    Thanks a lot for yet another outstanding post. You make my Wednesdays much worthy and beautiful too! Now, whenever I hear the word Wednesday, your blog immediately springs to mind.

  2. Pingback: Phrasal verbs for reading | Editorials Today

  3. What’s the word or phrasal verb that best describes the act of reading deliberately, I mean, only read what interest us(especially self help books), with the intent to apply what we learn?

  4. Aswathi

    Although v all have read in the different ways as mentioned in d post it s very difficult to express the way v read something…V just say I was reading something …I found ur post very useful….it helps one to express what they feel succinctly and not run out of words….thnkuuu

    1. fariba

      I read your blog out and find it useful , it is interesting to know and understand the phrasal verbs.thank you for your efforts. Farib

  5. Ratnayake

    When I pore over your blog, I found great lot of creative ways to say how we read things .To be honest , I never knew that there are some catchy phrasal verbs for reading briefly such as thumbs through and flick through.So Dear Kate , again my hat is off for widening our knowledge about phrasal verbs in reading ..

  6. Nikorn Phon

    Hello, Kate.
    I’d just followed this website for a long time in order to finding out many and diversity of English vocabulary. At the same time , I also enjoy reading articles on this website everytime. So I have to say thank you for a very useful reading article like this “phrasal verbs for reading ”
    I like English even I am not British. I am a Thai lecturer.

  7. Minh Hien Nguyen

    It’s so useful and easy to understand. We need something like this to tell the tiny difference between those words! 😊 Thanks very much!

  8. Christie Lim

    Very helpful indeed those phrasal verbs. It triggers my memory again with so many alternative words. Tq for your contribution.

  9. Syed Anas

    Hey kate,you’ve posted an outstanding article seriously I’ve found much information about using these phrases in sentences.

  10. senpathi

    That’s great to have all those you mentioned here……will be very useful for me on my exams too….
    Would you mind explaining the difference between phrasal verbs and idioms….pls….

  11. Lead Pencil

    Dear Kate
    could you suggest me some ways to remember the phrasal verbs, please? I learn them again and again but forget them so easily. Is there any way to make it easy to learn and use them in my writing. Actually when I am writing I don’t remember any new words. So I keep on repeating same.

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  13. Kate Woodford

    Thank you so much for all your kind comments. There will be more posts on the subject of phrasal verbs so keep coming back!

  14. Zuber choudhary

    I was searching about advanced vocab for reading then saw your post. I read through in one shot very interesting 🙂 thanks a lot. I am waiting for your further post

  15. I have become quite the avid speed-reader and read whole groups of words in an equilibrium of acute comprehension although I couldn’t help to slow down a bit as I pored over your informative and well-written article. Mazel Tov!

  16. Pingback: Getting lost in books: the language of reading – About Words – Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

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