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Most common words in English

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Studies that estimate and rank the most common words in English examine texts written in English. Perhaps the most comprehensive such analysis is one that was conducted against the Oxford English Corpus (OEC), a very large collection of texts from around the world that are written in the English language. A text corpus is a large collection of written works that are organised in a way that makes such analysis easier.

In total, the texts in the Oxford English Corpus contain more than 2 billion words.[1] The OEC includes a wide variety of writing samples, such as literary works, novels, academic journals, newspapers, magazines, Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, blogs, chat logs, and emails.[2]

Another English corpus that has been used to study word frequency is the Brown Corpus, which was compiled by researchers at Brown University in the 1960s. The researchers published their analysis of the Brown Corpus in 1967. Their findings were similar, but not identical, to the findings of the OEC analysis.

According to The Reading Teacher's Book of Lists, the first 25 words in the OEC make up about one-third of all printed material in English, and the first 100 words make up about half of all written English.[3] According to a study cited by Robert McCrum in The Story of English, all of the first hundred of the most common words in English are of Anglo-Saxon origin,[4] except for "people", ultimately from Latin "populus", and "because", in part from Latin "causa".

Some lists of common words distinguish between word forms, while others rank all forms of a word as a single lexeme (the form of the word as it would appear in a dictionary). For example, the lexeme be (as in to be) comprises all its conjugations (is, was, am, are, were, etc.), and contractions of those conjugations.[5] These top 100 lemmas listed below account for 50% of all the words in the Oxford English Corpus.[1]

100 most common words

A list of 100 words that occur most frequently in written English is given below, based on an analysis of the Oxford English Corpus (a collection of texts in the English language, comprising over 2 billion words).[1] A part of speech is provided for most of the words, but part of speech categories vary between analyses, and not all possibilities are listed. For example, "I" may be a pronoun or a Roman numeral; "to" may be a preposition or an infinitive marker; "time" may be a noun or a verb. Also, a single spelling can represent more than one root word. For example, "singer" may be a form of either "sing" or "singe". Different corpora may treat such difference differently.

The number of distinct senses that are listed in Wiktionary is shown in the Polysemy column. For example, "out" can refer to an escape, a removal from play in baseball, or any of 36 other concepts. On average, each word in the list has 15.38 senses. The sense count does not include the use of terms in phrasal verbs such as "eat out" (chastise) and other multiword expressions such as the interjection "get out!", where the word "out" does not have an individual meaning.[6] As an example, "out" occurs in at least 560 phrasal verbs[7] and appears in nearly 1700 multiword expressions.[1]

The table also includes frequencies from other corpora, note that as well as usage differences, lemmatisation may differ from corpus to corpus - for example splitting the prepositional use of "to" from the use as a particle. Also the COCA list includes dispersion as well as frequency to calculate rank.

Word Parts of speech OEC rank COCA rank[8] Dolch level Polysemy
the Article 1 1 Pre-primer 12
be Verb 2 2 Primer 21
to Preposition 3 7, 9 Pre-primer 17
of Preposition 4 4 Grade 1 12
and Conjunction 5 3 Pre-primer 16
a Article 6 5 Pre-primer 20
in Preposition 7 6, 128, 3038 Pre-primer 23
that Conjunction et al. 8 12, 27, 903 Primer 17
have Verb 9 8 Primer 25
I Pronoun 10 11 Pre-primer 7
it Pronoun 11 10 Pre-primer 18
for Preposition 12 13, 2339 Pre-primer 19
not Adverb et al. 13 28, 2929 Pre-primer 5
on Preposition 14 17, 155 Primer 43
with Preposition 15 16 Primer 11
he Pronoun 16 15 Primer 7
as Adverb, conjunction, et al. 17 33, 49, 129 Grade 1 17
you Pronoun 18 14 Pre-primer 9
do Verb, noun 19 18 Primer 38
at Preposition 20 22 Primer 14
this Determiner, adverb, noun 21 20, 4665 Primer 9
but Preposition, adverb, conjunction 22 23, 1715 Primer 17
his Possessive pronoun 23 25, 1887 Grade 1 6
by Preposition 24 30, 1190 Grade 1 19
from Preposition 25 26 Grade 1 4
they Pronoun 26 21 Primer 6
we Pronoun 27 24 Pre-primer 6
say Verb et al. 28 19 Primer 17
her Possessive pronoun 29, 106 42 Grade 1 3
she Pronoun 30 31 Primer 7
or Conjunction 31 32 Grade 2 11
an Article 32 (a) Grade 1 6
will Verb, noun 33 48, 1506 Primer 16
my Possessive pronoun 34 44 Pre-primer 5
one Noun, adjective, et al. 35 51, 104, 839 Pre-primer 24
all Adjective 36 43, 222 Primer 15
would Verb 37 41 Grade 2 13
there Adverb, pronoun, et al. 38 53, 116 Primer 14
their Possessive pronoun 39 36 Grade 2 2
what Pronoun, adverb, et al. 40 34 Primer 19
so Conjunction, adverb, et al. 41 55, 196 Primer 18
up Adverb, preposition, et al. 42 50, 456 Pre-primer 50
out Preposition 43 64, 149 Primer 38
if Conjunction 44 40 Grade 3 9
about Preposition, adverb, et al. 45 46, 179 Grade 3 18
who Pronoun, noun 46 38 Primer 5
get Verb 47 39 Primer 37
which Pronoun 48 58 Grade 2 7
go Verb, noun 49 35 Pre-primer 54
me Pronoun 50 61 Pre-primer 10
when Adverb 51 57, 136 Grade 1 11
make Verb, noun 52 45 Grade 2 [as "made"] 48
can Verb, noun 53 37, 2973 Pre-primer 18
like Preposition, verb 54 74, 208, 1123, 1684, 2702 Primer 26
time Noun 55 52 Dolch list of 95 nouns 14
no Determiner, Adverb 56 93, 699, 916, 1111, 4555 Primer 10
just Adjective 57 66, 1823 14
him Pronoun 58 68 5
know Verb, noun 59 47 13
take Verb, noun 60 63 66
people Noun 61 62 9
into Preposition 62 65 10
year Noun 63 54 7
your Possessive pronoun 64 69 4
good Adjective 65 110, 2280 32
some Determiner, pronoun 66 60 10
could Verb 67 71 6
them Pronoun 68 59 3
see Verb 69 67 25
other Adjective, pronoun 70 75, 715, 2355 12
than Conjunction, preposition 71 73, 712 4
then Adverb 72 77 10
now Preposition 73 72, 1906 13
look Verb 74 85, 604 17
only Adverb 75 101, 329 11
come Verb 76 70 20
its Possessive pronoun 77 78 2
over Preposition 78 124, 182 19
think Verb 79 56 10
also Adverb 80 87 2
back Noun, adverb 81 108, 323, 1877 36
after Preposition 82 120, 260 14
use Verb, noun 83 92, 429 17
two Noun 84 80 6
how Adverb 85 76 11
our Possessive pronoun 86 79 3
work Verb, noun 87 117, 199 28
first Adjective 88 86, 2064 10
well Adverb 89 100, 644 30
way Noun, adverb 90 84, 4090 16
even Adjective 91 107, 484 23
new Adjective et al. 92 88 18
want Verb 93 83 10
because Conjunction 94 89, 509 7
any Pronoun 95 109, 4720 4
these Pronoun 96 82 2
give Verb 97 98 19
day Noun 98 90 9
most Adverb 99 144, 187 12
us Pronoun 100 113 6

Parts of speech

The following is a very similar list, subdivided by part of speech.[1] The list labeled "Others" includes pronouns, possessives, articles, modal verbs, adverbs, and conjunctions.

Rank Nouns Verbs Adjectives Prepositions Others
1 time be good to the
2 person have new of and
3 year do first in a
4 way say last for that
5 day get long on I
6 thing make great with it
7 man go little at not
8 world know own by he
9 life take other from as
10 hand see old up you
11 part come right about this
12 child think big into but
13 eye look high over his
14 woman want different after they
15 place give small her
16 work use large she
17 week find next or
18 case tell early an
19 point ask young will
20 government work important my
21 company seem few one
22 number feel public all
23 group try bad would
24 problem leave same there
25 fact call able their

See also

Word lists

References

  1. ^ a b c d "The Oxford English Corpus: Facts about the language". OxfordDictionaries.com. Oxford University Press. What is the commonest word?. Archived from the original on December 26, 2011. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  2. ^ "The Oxford English Corpus". AskOxford.com. Retrieved June 22, 2006.
  3. ^ The First 100 Most Commonly Used English Words Archived 2013-06-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Bill Bryson, The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way, Harper Perennial, 2001, page 58
  5. ^ Benjamin Zimmer. June 22, 2006. Time after time after time.... Language Log. Retrieved June 22, 2006.
  6. ^ Benjamin, Martin (2019). "Polysemy in top 100 Oxford English Corpus words within Wiktionary". Teach You Backwards. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  7. ^ Garcia-Vega, M (2010). "Teasing out the meaning of "out"". 29th International Conference on Lexis and Grammar.
  8. ^ "Word frequency: based on 450 million word COCA corpus". www.wordfrequency.info. Retrieved 11 April 2018.

External links