1

When I say this phrase:

  1. I finished reading that book.

Do I always mean both of the following?

  1. I have read that book through from the beginning.
  2. I have read that book through to the end.

Do the other two variants mean the same?

  1. I read that book to the end.
  2. I finished that book.

How do I commonly tell that I stopped reading a book but did NOT get to the end of it i.e. found it boring and gave it up?

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  • No, it's ambiguous. I finished reading that book an hour ago when I got to page 5 and got bored. Jan 11, 2017 at 13:11
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    If you did not somehow qualify what you said, and you were not someone who was known to tweak the language a bit, "I finished that book last night" would be generally understood to mean that you'd read it to the end (assuming it was some sort of narrative). There are other contexts where the implication of completion might not be as strong.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 11, 2017 at 13:17
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    I disagree with Clare and WS2 (in various degrees). 'I finished reading that book' (without qualification) almost always means 'I read the whole book from start to finish'. 'I stopped reading that book' means that you did not get to the end.
    – Mitch
    Jan 11, 2017 at 13:46
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    @ZverevEugene In a sense, yes. If I say I have finished reading a book, it means just that - I have stopped reading it. But if I say I have "finished the book" - it is a bit like saying I have finished the job.
    – WS2
    Jan 11, 2017 at 15:58
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    DNF is a very common abbreviation in consumer book reviews (on Goodreads, for example) standing for Did Not Finish. This specifically means that the book was so bad/boring/offensive/whatever that the reviewer gave up on the book—put it down without reading through to the end and without any (immediate) intention of picking it back up again. To me, this argues for I finished (reading) the book being generally interpreted as the speaker having read the book through to the end.
    – 1006a
    Jan 11, 2017 at 20:52

3 Answers 3

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A lot depends on context, tone of voice, etc, but if you say "I finished that book last night" (or "I finished reading..."), most AmE listeners, in a normal context, would assume that you read it through to the end. (Note, this is assuming that the conversation is not somehow of an ironic nature, and the book is some sort of narrative. If the book is something like a physics book you may just mean you finished the chapters relevant to the current discussion topic.)

Saying something like "I'm done reading the book", however, is a hair more ambiguous, and if the person uses "air quotes" around "finished", or says the word with a sarcastic tone, one can assume that the book was not read through to the end. (For this reason, knowing the context and tone of speech is important.)

Also, if we are talking about some time in the past, the person might say "I read that book", implying that they had read the book all the way through, or at least felt that they had read the important parts and "skimmed" through the rest. (Be truthful now: Have you ever read any book longer than about 100 pages and not just "skimmed" some parts of it?) An honest speaker would say "I read parts of that book" if, indeed, they had not (to their recollection) read (or reasonably skimmed) the entire thing.

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Without any context, I would interpret I finished reading that book. as you completing the whole book.

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I would phrase it just like you did:

I stopped reading the book.

"Stopped" doesn't imply completion the way "finished" does.

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