You read an email and thought it meant B but later realizes it actually said A. In this scenario, can you say, "I read that email/sentence wrong" or should I use "wrongly"? How would a native speaker describe this? I mistook that email?

  • Using "wrongly" puts you on dangerous ground, because it implies something you don't actually want to say. You are not talking about the process of reading but the meaning you derived from reading. But there are some shortcuts and omitted words that make "I read it [as something] wrong" conventionally acceptable.
    – Spencer
    Apr 24, 2017 at 20:48

6 Answers 6


Both are acceptable. "Wrong" sounds more natural to me, but "wrongly" is the more formal. If you like you could split the difference and use "incorrectly".

See more at Grammarist.


The correct answer seems to be I read it wrong.

In this sentence wrong would be what grammarians call a flat adverb, with flat meaning:

Flat Gram. Not having an inflectional ending or sign, as a noun used as an adjective, or an adjective as an adverb, without the addition of a formative suffix, or an infinitive without the sign to. Many flat adverbs, as in run fast, buy cheap, are from AS. adverbs in -ë, the loss of this ending having made them like the adjectives. Some having forms in ly, such as exceeding wonderful true, are now archaic.

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913

Wrong has been categorized in this manner since at least 1828 in the American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster, and probably much longer. Dr. Webster's definitions seem to imply a slight difference between it and wrongly too. Wrong is more of a word of simple error, and wrongly is more of a word for ethical considerations.

WRONG, adverb Not rightly; amiss; morally ill; erroneously.

Ten censure wrong for one that writes amiss. [— Alexander Pope; An Essay on Criticism]

WRONGLY, adverb In a wrong manner; unjustly; amiss. He judges wrongly of my motives.

I have some doubts about this, since the 1913 dictionary's definitions seem to be in disagreement, but the illustrative quotations from each one seem to corroborate this distinction. Webster's 1913 adds this quotation from William Shakespeare's Macbeth for consideration: "And yet wouldst wrongly win."

In consideration of this distinction, it seems senseless to say that you read it wrongly in most circumstances, since there is no inherent evil in merely misreading something. If my hypothesis is correct, the semantic nuance would explain why Google nGrams (archived) does recognize "I read it wrong", yet not the alternative sentence "I read it wrongly", despite the identical syntax.


Wrong is wrong, wrongly is right. The first is an adjective, the second an adverb. However, depressingly, the first seems to be quite usual. Perhaps avoid the trap and use incorrectly.


If the issue is strictly grammar- 'Wrongly' is correct. It is an adverb that modifies a verb.
If the issue is common usage- ‘Wrong’ reflects what my ears are used to hearing and my eyes are used to reading.


In this case, "wrong" would be grammatically incorrect, but would "sound" correct. Wrongly is correct, but people are generally more accustomed to hearing "wrong". To be grammatically correct and sound correct, use "I misread it."


I would use wrong or wrongly to change the intensity of a sentence. wrong sets a more aggressive tone and wrongly sets a more formal tone. The calmer choice is wrongly. You already know incorrectly is the grammatically correct word.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.