6

Both seem to mean "to read", so what's the diff?

4

Verbs have different aspect (see other questions on this forum about aspect, this one in particular). читать is an imperfect verb, it denotes a process in its development, an unfinished activity. прочесть is a perfect verb, it denotes a completed activity.

Examples:

Я читаю книгу. (читать)
I am reading a book.

Я прочел книгу. (прочесть)
I've read the book (till the end).

Когда ты будешь читать книгу, которую я тебе подарил на день рождения? (читать)
When will you read the book I gave you for your birthday?

Когда ты прочтешь книгу, которую я тебе подарил на день рождения? (прочесть)
When will you finish reading the book I gave you for your birthday?

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    It should be "I've read a book", not "red a book". Stupid minimum edit length restriction. – kotekzot Jul 17 '12 at 21:20
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    I have to spell check what I'm writing! Thanks. – Olga Jul 17 '12 at 21:41
1

Прочесть is the same (but older) as прочитать, which is just a perfective aspect of читать. So, читать means 'to read', прочитать means 'to have read'.

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    The two are not interchangeable in the meaning of "being busy reading". Я прочитал всю дорогу is correct, я прочёл всю дорогу is not. – Quassnoi Jul 17 '12 at 18:32
  • @Quassnoi I believe, it is actually two different verbs прочитать, one meaning "to spend some time interval reading" and another one meaning "to finish reading". – Olga Jul 17 '12 at 18:46

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