When I was reading the now ongoing investigation and interrogation on Comey.,

in the 4th paragraph

In an op-ed for the New York Times Serratore argued that the document read like a statement from a survivor of workplace harassment. At a January 27 dinner, she noted, Comey found out he would be alone with the president.

Now everybody knows the document(s) can not read by itself.

Is this a mistake? Or grammatically correct?

I am sorry if I sound like trying to find trifle things.

  • 1
    No mistake. This is the intransitive read. The OED says of it: " b. To have a specified character or quality when read; to produce a certain impression on readers; to give rise to a particular interpretation." Jun 12, 2017 at 3:28
  • Uh, I am sorry I did not bother to check the dictionary since it is a too common word. So intransitive to produce a certain impression. I was educated like a 4th grader. ^^
    – user17814
    Jun 12, 2017 at 3:31
  • 1
    No need to be sorry. It's important to grasp the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs—even in the 4th grade! Jun 12, 2017 at 3:34
  • No, this is a big finding. I did not know or should I have said I was not familiar so much with the fact that transitive frequent verb "read" ( unless without be verb ) has the intransitive.!
    – user17814
    Jun 12, 2017 at 3:37
  • 2
    I think some of the native speakers aren't empathizing with your difficulty. People learning English, who already know about transitive and intransitive verbs, are often surprised to find that English often lets you use a transitive verb intransitively. The intransitive usage has a new sense, which natives perceive as "the same" verb, but foreigners find surprising—until they've seen it a few times. Here and here are similar questions.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jun 15, 2017 at 1:46

1 Answer 1


Just to make an answer out of the above comments, since no one has in the previous two days:

When a document or sign or sentence "reads", it generally means one of two things:

  1. (Transitive.) To have a given message on it available to be read; to "bear (a specified inscription)" (OED entry read, v., VI, 24).

There is no point driving around it looking for a sign reading ‘City Centre’, because there isn't one.

  1. (Intransitive.) To have a given tone when read, to "produce a particular impression on readers" (as @P.E.Dant cited from the same OED entry, VI, 22 b).

Danielewski's newest offering reads like a love story that slipped into a particle accelerator.

In the example you cited, the second meaning is intended.

  • These examples are great!
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jun 15, 2017 at 17:55
  • @BenKovitz All credit to OED example-hunters! Should I make that clearer? Jun 15, 2017 at 18:28