Fun Facts - The Most Used Words in English

What are the most used words in English? The people at the Oxford English Dictionary have made an enormous list of all the words we use, called the Oxford English Corpus, and they've used it to work out which words are the used most often.

What they found out might surprise you. Instead of looking at every individual word, they instead looked at "base words", called lemmas. For example, climbing, climbed and climbs are all examples of the word climb. So where one of these words showed up, they recorded it as just another use of the word climb.

They worked out that the top ten most used words in English make up for 25% of all words we use! These are "function words" like the, of, be and to. That means that if we take any text of 100 words, around 25 of them will be one of these words.

What the complete Oxford English Dictionary looks like. That's a lot of words! Courtesy of OUP.

The top 100 most used words in English actually make up 50% of all the words we say every day, and the top 1,000 words account for 75% of our vocabulary. These are words like girl, win, decide, and huge. With only 7,000 words, we've covered 90% of all of the words you will use in your lifetime.

The rest are all once-off words or words related to special jobs or subjects, and you aren't likely to need to use them more than once in your life.

The Top 10 Nouns in English

The top 10 words are all "function words", but the top 10 nouns tell us a lot about the things we usually speak or read about:

  1. time
  2. person
  3. year
  4. way
  5. day
  6. thing
  7. man
  8. world
  9. life
  10. hand

This means that learning all the English words you'll need is a lot less work than it looks!  If you learn the top 100 words, and how to use all of the different version of them, you'll be able to speak most basic sentences, minus only one or two words. Of course, the hard part is learning all the ways in which those words can be used.

If you want to build your vocabulary, our Intensive Academic Semester is the fastest way to learn all of the English words you'll need to hold any conversation in English.

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