What is the difference between the three read verbs, 阅读,读,and 看? A casual googling gets you some explanations but as I still can't get it correctly and it has not been posted here, I wish someone could clarify it.

I understand the difference of the three verbs from 念; 念 is used when you speak it out, sometimes loudly.

But as to the three verbs, 看 is used in more general while 阅读 is used when you concentrate on the action of reading...right?

And then I don't know the difference between 阅读 and 读.

Also, does 阅读 (or 读) is only used when you read words or sentences? For example, I'm now at Starbucks and see a trash bin outside, around 10m ahead. Is it awkward to say 请阅读那个垃圾桶?

In most books I used I saw 看 is most often used, but during my current stay in China (too short yet), I have seen 阅读 far more often than 看...

up vote 5 down vote accepted
  1. 看 could mean see, look, watch and read, but 阅读 does not mean see, look or watch. 阅读 only means read. Examples:
    1. 我在看书。(I'm reading a book.)
    2. 我在读书。(I'm reading a book.)
    3. 我在阅读。(I'm doing some reading.)(Normally we don't say 我在阅读书; see below.)
    4. WRONG SENTENCE: 请阅读那个垃圾桶。(Please read that trash bin.)
    5. 请看那个垃圾桶。(Please look at that trash bin.)
  2. 阅读 is more like an intransitive verb, or a noun in English, while 读 is more like a transitive verb. Examples:
    1. 我喜欢阅读。(I like reading.)
    2. UNNATURAL: 我喜欢阅读书。(I like reading books.)(Although in English it is very good, it sounds weird in Chinese, because a one-syllable word is combined with a two-syllable word.)
    3. RATHER FORMAL: 我喜欢阅读书籍。(I like reading books.)(This sounds formal rather than weird because two two-syllable words are put together.)
  • 1
    regarding UNNATURAL: according to CCG *disyllabic verb + monosyllabic object e.g. *浏览书 (or 阅读书)is "invalid" but there would be nothing wrong with monosyllabic verb + disyllabic object, e.g. 看电影 (see previous Q: What is the difference between 钱 and 金钱 (and 款)?) – user6065 Jul 17 '16 at 16:37

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