Pore over vs. pour over

The phrase meaning to study carefully is pore over. It comes from a little-used sense of the verb pore—namely, to meditate deeply. In modern writing, this sense of pore rarely appears outside this phrase.

Pour over is of course a meaningful phrase in its own right, but it has nothing to do with studying. It’s what you do, for example, with milk to a bowl of cereal.


Major employers are using specialist anti-union lawyers to pore over the legislation. [Libcom.org]

Young men pore over texts crammed with cursive script at the Zia ul Uloom madrassa in search of the values that define the Barelvi school of Islam. [Financial Times]

Yet I eagerly pore over them with the colossal seriousness that someone more educated than I might devote to a Kierkegaard treatise. [SI.com]

11 thoughts on “Pore over vs. pour over”

  1. I have seen “poring” used incorrectly in Smithsonian, no less. It was hilarious to see “pouring” instead, as the article had to do with someone doing something related to water!

      • In other discusssion You’ve said: (I cannot comment in that discussion so i do it here)
        Ralf Arson a day ago

        They did not evolve after the Kuru outbreak. Some people had a resistance and everyone else had a much higher failure rate.

        Kuru, in this case, is like a fishnet and the people are the fish. The ones that make it through the net because of their inherit abilities do not “evolve” when they pass through the net – They DO have a higher likelihood to pass on their advantage to future generations.

        You’ve basically described evolution. It is always like this, that selection operates on variance within population. So they did evolve: they were selected for specyfic mutation, and thus this mutation increased the frequency in population- that is evolution by natural selection

  2. To add to what I said the other day, some of the modern-day confusion over these words probably has to do with coffee houses who do a “pour over” when they don’t have a pot of brew ready. 

  3. “Pour over a book” certainly makes some figurative sense—to thoroughly cover the entire book—to me, the confusion is understandable. Perhaps in the future, both spellings will be in common use.

  4. “a little-used sense of the verb”
    “this sense of pore”

    In both these instances, is “sense” incorrectly used in place of “tense”…?
    I have looked for a way to justify the use of “sense”. However, I have found none, and believe “sense” is incorrect.
    It caught my eye and hoped someone had an answer or feedback.

    • No, “sense” is correct and distinct from “tense.” It refers to one of multiple meanings or connotations of a particular word or phrase. Case in point: right now we are discussing a peculiarly linguistic sense of the word “sense.”

  5. I would say that using my eyes to pour over a book is exactly the right use of the word, where the eyes flow over the text like water covering every little word and detail in the text ensuring that nothing is missed.

    • You must throw away a lot of wet, bloody books if your eyes poured over them. However, they would be nice and dry and quite readable if your eyes pored over them. Why use a metaphorical stretch that would be considered by every English grammar expert in the world to be non-standard (incorrect) when you can use a word whose literal meaning is exactly what you want to convey? “Pouring over” a book is a misspelling, period, and no amount of rationalization is going to change that.

      • I wouldn’t say it’s a misspelling if the writer properly spelled the word they meant to use.

        I’m not disagreeing – just never could pass on a good nit.


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