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

Parts of speech

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

Nouns

  1. time
  2. person
  3. year
  4. way
  5. day
  6. thing
  7. man
  8. world
  9. life
  10. hand
  11. part
  12. child
  13. eye
  14. woman
  15. place
  16. work
  17. week
  18. case
  19. point
  20. government
  21. company
  22. number
  23. group
  24. problem
  25. fact

Verbs

  1. be
  2. have
  3. do
  4. say
  5. get
  6. make
  7. go
  8. know
  9. take
  10. see
  11. come
  12. think
  13. look
  14. want
  15. give
  16. use
  17. find
  18. tell
  19. ask
  20. work
  21. seem
  22. feel
  23. try
  24. leave
  25. call

Adjectives

  1. good
  2. new
  3. first
  4. last
  5. long
  6. great
  7. little
  8. own
  9. other
  10. old
  11. right
  12. big
  13. high
  14. different
  15. small
  16. large
  17. next
  18. early
  19. young
  20. important
  21. few
  22. public
  23. bad
  24. same
  25. able

Prepositions

  1. to
  2. of
  3. in
  4. for
  5. on
  6. with
  7. at
  8. by
  9. from
  10. up
  11. about
  12. into
  13. over
  14. after

Others

  1. the
  2. and
  3. a
  4. that
  5. I
  6. it
  7. not
  8. he
  9. as
  10. you
  11. this
  12. but
  13. his
  14. they
  15. her
  16. she
  17. or
  18. an
  19. will
  20. my
  21. one
  22. all
  23. would
  24. there
  25. 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.
  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. ^ "Word frequency: based on 450 million word COCA corpus". www.wordfrequency.info. Retrieved 11 April 2018. 

External links