Translation:We are reading the newspaper.
I remember my Chinese teacher say something like 読 would be more like reading out loud and 看 is reading (or just looking at!) quietly. (No one can say if you're just looking at the page instead of properly reading it.)
Yes. "读" can mean "read out loud" in English, but not necessary. If I hear the phrase "读报纸", my instinct basically tells me this means "read the newspaper" rather than "read it out." By the way, be careful that "読" is only used in Japanese. The corresponding characters in Chinese are "讀" and "读", in traditional and simplified form respectively.
在 denotes continuous mood. I guess that without it, some people would understand "we read the newspaper every day, but not right now". Hope a native lends us a hand.
Native here. Yes, without 在 the sentence is a rather general statement. It could be in any tense (past, present, future) because there is no this grammatical concept in Chinese. You can think of the phrase 读报纸 after 在 as a topic. And 在 denotes a status or an action in progress.
I understand that people are eager to learn about the present progressive tense. But really, we always need the context to decide which tense to apply in English. So please be patient and learn it one by one.
Say, someone asks “你们在干什么？What are you doing?”, we can certainly state that “我们读报纸” without 在. If this is reported speech, it would mean “we were reading newspapers”. And if we are asked “What will you be doing here tomorrow?”, that same answer would mean “we will be reading newspapers”. But in fact the Chinese sentence is just a very general statement.
Update: I mean “general” (or “more general”) in the form that the sentence does not use any word like 现在 (at present), 将来 (in the future), 过去 (in the past) to indicate the appropriate tense. In fact, 我们在读报纸 can also describe events in the past/present/future, i.e. “we are/were/will be reading”, and this does not change the described function of 在. Sorry for introducing this obscure terminology. ;-)
- present tense (“do”) ≠ present progressive tense (“is/are do-ing”)
- 在 tells us to use the progressive aspect / continuing form
- two aspects: progressive (be do-ing) and perfective (be done, have done)
Sorry, this comment has become so long… ;-) Please correct me if I am wrong.
If we want to understand the content or read it out, we can use 读. We cannot use 看 for reading aloud. For example:
- read out this sentence — 读 (出) 这个 句子 dú (chū) zhè.gè jù zi (出 means “go/come out”)
- please read₁ after₂ me — 请 跟₂ 我 读₁ qǐng gēn wǒ dú (跟 means “follow”)
看 means "to look". We can use it for silent reading (looking at words). 读 definately means reading (not just looking), and it can be used for reading aloud.
Huh, so the sentence above would not mean: ‘We are studying the newspaper’ in the sense that we’re looking for deeper information/clues. Good to know!
... But it might mean we are learning by reciting the newspaper?
读书 generally means study, but 看书 means reading a book. 看报 or 看报纸 is more natural than 读报 or 读报纸, people that 读 a newspaper really pay attention to the stories compared to those who just flip through the pages browsing (看).
This is a false dichotomy. “study” is just one of the three common meanings of 读书. The other two are “read books” and “attend school”. Although 读报 may sound more serious, 看报 doesn't indicate whether the person is just skimming over the newspaper.