My thoughts are 念 specifically means reading out loud, emphasis on "out loud".

读 can be out loud or to oneself, the emphasis is just on "reading".

If I want someone to read something out loud for me I would say 给我念一下 , but if I say 给我读一下 would that also be interpreted as "read it out loud to me" ?

  • 1
    I add a tag, lexical.
    – PdotWang
    Aug 16, 2023 at 1:01

7 Answers 7


You can 念 something without looking at the words, e.g. 念經,念咒, 念詩 (chanting scriptures, chanting spells, reciting poetry)

you must look at the words to 读 (read) something, e.g. 讀書,讀報紙

both 念 and 讀 can be done 'out loud' or 'in the mind' therefore, we have phrases like 回家把課文讀幾遍, 把課文讀出來,朗聲念詩, and 默念詩句


The two verbs 念 and 读 have the same meaning in most cases and can be used interchangeably. They both mean "read" in English. The differences between them could be listed as the following.

(1) means read with voice. means read with or without voice. For example,

请把这封信给我一下. (我的眼睛花了, 看不清字了. ) Please read the letter to me. (My eyes are blurred and I can't read the words clearly.)

Using in this sentence is OK because people understand that you must read it with your voice to let the other party hear it.

(2) 你学习的时候,请不要出声来,影响别人。When you are studying, please don't read it aloud to affect others.

(3) can be used in compound words such as 阅读 (read), 朗读(read aloud), 默读(silently read), 速读(speed read), etc. The compound words are somehow fixed, you could not use 念 in those words.

(4) 念书, as a compound word, means "go to school". For example,

小孩子应该念书, 不应该种地. Children should study, not do farm work.

(5) The word has the mood of reading attentively, carefully, and thoughtfully. For example,

你只是把文章了一遍,并没有懂作者的意思。You just looked through the article but didn't understand the meaning of the author.

In the sentence, means "glance through", not necessarily "read aloud". Using here is to highlight in contrast.


读 is reading, while 念 is reciting from memory without referring to the text.

念 can also mean rememberance, depending on the context.


They correspond roughly to the English recite vs read.

(In English, we can say both "Recite for me" or "Read for me". In Mandarin, we can also say both 给我念一下 and 给我读一下. In both English and Mandarin, recite/念 strongly suggests but does not mandate doing so out loud.)


You may look hinative.com/questions/15426.

There seems to be some confusion here between "read" and "recite". "read" is not the same as "recite", at least not in English.

Neither 念 nor 读 on their own mean 'recite'.

They are more or less the same until you use them in combination to make other 2 character words.

Please read it back to me.

Please read it back to me.


I think "念“ is more like an order.like the teacher asks students to do something.And it makes people feel uncomfortable.But "读” is used in most situations.

ps: I live in china for 10 years.hope i can help you .


The main differences between 念 and 读:

念 - The action of reading with or without comprehending the material.

读 - The action of reading and comprehending the material.

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