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Word Frequency‏‎ in English

© <a href='http://www.flickr.com/thomashawk/' target='_blank'>Thomas Hawk</a>Word Frequency is listing words‏‎ according to how popular they are in the language. The method of determining the list is by taking a corpus‏‎ of language and simply counting the words in it and how often each one is used.

This usually brings up the following as the most popular:

  1. the
  2. of
  3. and
  4. to
  5. a

However, no list can be definitive. This is because the popularity of words will depend upon the source of the corpus. For example, a corpus of film and television scripts gives these as the top 5 words which is different from the more general list above.

  1. you
  2. I
  3. to
  4. the
  5. a

This being the case, word lists can be generated for specific fields or, in the case of general usage, from collating many different word lists.

Another consideration is when is a word the same as another. Most lexicographers‏‎ would agree that table is the same as tables in a list and should not be counted as two different words. Likewise verb forms‏‎ can be counted as the same word: take, takes, taking. But how about spy used as a verb and spy used as a noun? Or gross used to mean disgusting and gross used to mean 12 dozen?

Often because the counting of words is done by software there are no distinctions made between words with the same form and completely different meanings.

Word Usage Statistics

Different statistics exist for how commonly everyday words are used in English. One source suggests that:

  • the first 25 words on the list below are used in 33% of everyday writing
  • the first 100 words on the list appear in 50% of adult and student writing
  • the first 1,000 words on the list are used in 89% of everyday writing

In the Classroom

Although it might seem useful to have the word list in the classroom, it is perhaps too boring to teach the words on the list and make sure the students understand them. Word lists are useful as adjunct tools to your teaching. For example, materials writers will use them to make sure that the materials they create use words within a certain ranking so that the majority of their students will understand them.

(Note that most published ELT books will have gone through a process whereby the vocabulary‏‎ used is checked against a word list to make sure it is appropriate so there is no need for the teacher to do this.)

Word List

These are typical word frequencies based on the British National Corpus.

Rank Spoken & Written Spoken Written
1 the the the
2 of I of
3 and you and
4 a and a
5 in it in
6 to a to
7 it ‘s is
8 is to to
9 to of was
10 was that it
11 I n’t for
12 for in that
13 that we with
14 you is he
15 he do be
16 be* they on
17 with er I
18 on was by
19 by yeah ‘s
20 at have at
21 have* what you
22 are he are
23 not that had
24 this to his
25 ‘s but not
26 but for this
27 had erm have
28 they be but
29 his on from
30 from this which
31 she know she
32 that well they
33 which so or
34 or oh an
35 we got were
36 ‘s ‘ve as
37 an not we
38 ~n’t are their
39 were if been
40 as with has
41 do no that
42 been ‘re will
43 their she would
44 has at her*
45 would there there
46 there think n’t
47 what yes all
48 will just can
49 all all if
50 if can who
51 can then said
52 her* get do
53 said did what
54 who or as
55 one would ‘s
56 so mm one
57 up them its
58 as ‘ll into
59 them one him
60 some there some
61 when up up
62 could go could
63 him now when
64 into your them
65 its had so
66 then were time
67 two about out
68 out two my
69 time said two
70 my one about
71 about ‘m then
72 did see no
73 your me more
74 now very other
75 me out also
76 no my only
77 other when these
78 only mean me
79 just right first
80 more which your
81 these from may
82 also going* now
83 people say did
84 know been new
85 any people any
86 first because* people
87 see some her
88 very could should
89 new will than
90 may how see
91 well on very
92 should an made
93 her* time like
94 like who just
95 than want after
96 how like between
97 get come many
98 way really years
99 one three way
100 our by how
101 made here our
102 got put being
103 after ‘s those
104 think has such
105 between good down
106 many as one
107 years does make
108 er cos* through
109 ‘ve any over
110 those down even
111 go where back
112 being ~na* must
113 because* him know
114 down his year
115 ‘re other own
116 yeah five still
117 three in because*
118 good something too
119 back their get
120 make these good
121 such our three
122 on way last
123 there ca~ more
124 through actually take
125 year back however
126 over four government
127 ‘ll ‘d work
128 must should go
129 still gon~ man
130 even take well
131 take thing on
132 too look world
133 more those same
134 here why most
135 own things over
136 come no life
137 last only against
138 does like day
139 oh into might
140 say us under
141 no quite here
142 going* hundred does
143 ‘m right another
144 work lot* come
145 where make as
146 erm first us
147 us okay* think
148 government more old
149 same doing while
150 man done never
151 might twenty where
152 day went each
153 yes as again
154 however six found*
155 put give Mr
156 world thought
157 over again part
158 another off say
159 in might house
160 want year much
161 as her there
162 life last used
163 most like where
164 against much out of
165 again need in
166 never day number
167 under used without
168 old says going*
169 much still different
170 something about children
171 Mr mhm system
172 why ah put
173 each sort during
174 while years within
175 house never came
176 part little although
177 number than few
178 out of tell local
179 found* many small
180 off same before
181 different her* got
182 went another social
183 really money ‘ll
184 point place
185 thought bit* case
186 came being great
187 used anything off
188 children week always
189 always too ‘ve
190 four more ‘m
191 where ten most
192 without through ‘re
193 give eight why
194 few new something
195 within nice group
196 about work went
197 system always want
198 local thank thought
199 place next company
200 great must 1
201 during probably end
202 although saying party
203 small ‘d when
204 before pounds per cent
205 look nine women
206 next Mr about
207 when seven next
208 case also both
209 end wo~ men
210 things big find
211 social over information
212 most of course important
213 find getting give
214 group made took
215 quite after national
216 mean number often
217 five when every
218 party old state
219 every find given
220 company coming high
221 women thirty much
222 says fifty 2
223 important as well British
224 took thousand seen
225 much remember London
226 men as four
227 information anyway told
228 1 goes second
229 per cent today business
230 both different head
231 national out of taken
232 often a bit school
233 seen fact looked
234 given may family
235 school sure possible
236 fact else away
237 money came large
238 told sort of fact
239 away night hand
240 high house says
241 point morning water
242 night even such as
243 state every night
244 business end look
245 second use already
246 British having area
247 need keep set
248 taken perhaps asked
249 done over things
250 right own development
251 ‘d [= would] half left
252 having away money
253 thing much long
254 looked school having
255 London sorry yet
256 area C / c home
257 perhaps talking power
258 head looking perhaps
259 water council almost
260 right ooh point
261 family gone quite
262 long round himself
263 2 work really
264 hand aye John
265 like whether use
266 already mum nothing
267 possible though later
268 nothing somebody political
269 yet alright* called
270 large A / a country
271 left man days
272 side nothing young
273 asked let’s side
274 set so become
275 whether ask both
276 days try eyes
277 mm let whether
278 home forty far
279 called job room
280 John car general
281 development side since
282 week seen together
283 such as nineteen service
284 use ~n~* need
285 country children court
286 power alright* public
287 ca~ start members
288 later long market
289 almost feel towards
290 ‘d [= had] great before
291 young told face
292 council please use
293 himself P / p five
294 of course everything held
295 far area others
296 both part council
297 use place able
298 room problem felt
299 together few times
300 tell ninety war
301 little off available
302 political able law
303 before between full
304 able its police
305 become B / b interest
306 six Road done
307 general comes week
308 service pound ‘d
309 eyes ~ta* of course
310 members days problem
311 since ones early
312 times before form
313 problem wanted problems
314 anything trying research
315 market question 3
316 towards pay right
317 court better education
318 public yet help
319 others called though
320 face God best
321 full local body
322 doing maybe knew
323 war certainly mother
324 car name Britain
325 felt bad making
326 police eighty at least
327 keep obviously saw
328 held government office
329 problems sixty car
330 road life road
331 probably call tell
332 help whatever policy
333 interest leave turned
334 available took began
335 law moment services
336 best times thing
337 form working little
338 A / a important several
339 looking twelve like
340 early water seemed
341 making left period
342 today ever main
343 mother suppose less
344 saw stuff minister
345 knew back child
346 education kind using
347 work at all health
348 actually dad ever
349 policy S / s economic
350 ever everybody control
351 so already keep
352 at least talk million
353 office home ‘d
354 am am society
355 research shall am
356 feel wrong known
357 big E / e until
358 body together for example
359 door buy major
360 let started door
361 Britain most months
362 3 John itself
363 name read among
364 person ago including
365 services county upon
366 months against England
367 report believe report
368 question door father
369 using hear person
370 health minutes A / a
371 turned idea themselves
372 lot* within around
373 million move words
374 main group anything
375 though anybody level
376 words world book
377 enough whole looking
378 child bloody after
379 less mind enough
380 book T / t effect
381 period O / o name
382 until round areas
383 several person became
384 sure only likely
385 father case feel
386 for example each community
387 level M / m woman
388 control enough international
389 known help work
390 society home centre
391 major aha therefore
392 seemed under city
393 around tomorrow so
394 began percent question
395 itself room position
396 themselves women gave
397 minister paper provide
398 economic heard six
399 wanted taken real
400 upon so that let
401 areas lovely clear
402 after wan~ probably
403 therefore before staff
404 woman far action
405 England all today
406 city up to black
407 community party further*
408 only without act
409 including look special
410 centre looks yes
411 gave stop process
412 job business management
413 among used no
414 position such evidence
415 effect given only
416 likely making particularly
417 real members thus
418 clear second age
419 staff taking certain
420 black men open
421 kind policy line
422 read ai~* wanted
423 provide hand particular
424 particular couple 4
425 became before difficult
426 line hello death
427 moment problems either
428 international ha across
429 action book big
430 special me* read
431 difficult minute third
432 certain asked view
433 particularly best kind
434 either bring sense
435 open small mind
436 management report around
437 taking word taking
438 across eh whose
439 idea months century
440 further* sit seems
441 whole found white
442 age rather moment
443 process looked church
444 act particular rather
445 around fifteen idea
446 evidence hope industry
447 view write whole
448 better full sure
449 off information support
450 mind saw change
451 sense words behind
452 rather service range
453 seems country job
454 believe seventy brought
455 morning gets ca~
456 third understand European
457 else difficult care
458 half exactly study
459 white most free
460 death sometimes table
461 sometimes weeks order
462 thus turn history
463 brought either 10
464 getting better central
465 church wants believe
466 ten top groups
467 shall around sometimes
468 try happened Mrs
469 behind play better
470 heard bought doing
471 God Christmas air
472 table hour language
473 change I / i street
474 4 in~* result
475 support hours rate
476 back system little
477 sort both hands
478 Mrs o’clock trade
479 whose shop off
480 industry fine based
481 ago committee heard
482 free seems human
483 care police experience
484 so that high mean
485 order mother training
486 century absolutely food
487 range D / d similar
488 European yourself data
489 gone G / g team
490 yesterday someone yesterday
491 training line section
492 working young usually
493 ask reason programme
494 street later changes
495 home thinking common
496 word run role
497 groups meeting cases
498 history tonight 5
499 central yesterday Europe
500 all bed shall
501 study mine nature
502 usually TRUE voice
503 remember happy necessary
504 trade situation sir
505 hundred often so that
506 programme set UK
507 food across subject
508 committee somewhere back
509 air tea course
510 hours pick once
511 experience family indeed
512 rate war word
513 hands down ago
514 indeed means authority
515 sir eat companies
516 language view since
517 land show land
518 result certain committee
519 course knew God
520 someone office as well as
521 everything past patients
522 certainly live class
523 based land personal
524 team wait hours
525 section indeed all
526 10 cut systems
527 leave national herself
528 trying at least especially
529 coming du~* someone
530 similar level value
531 once head department
532 minutes mind former
533 authority paid simply
534 human of* single
535 changes thanks home
536 little makes private
537 cases general member
538 common funny working
539 role where practice
540 data/datum although long
541 TRUE change morning
542 Europe boy town
543 necessary sense short
544 nature myself half
545 class mummy TRUE
546 reason town because of
547 long company show
548 saying N / n reason
549 town million right
550 show dear countries
551 subject using try
552 voice happen oh
553 companies girl else
554 since while wife
555 because of training figure
556 simply through rather than
557 especially open bank
558 B / b lost until
559 department finished foreign
560 single plan type
561 short health need
562 personal eleven decision
563 as well as R / r price
564 5 long US
565 pay particularly terms
566 value York minutes
567 member hard financial
568 started putting needed
569 run questions university
570 patients during president
571 paper therefore run
572 private ~no* certainly
573 seven worked leave
574 UK forward recent
575 eight up club
576 systems chairman seem
577 herself Friday south
578 practice Mrs north
579 wife that friend
580 price table according to
581 type afternoon matter
582 seem bye lost
583 figure watch trying
584 former gave soon
585 rather than month quality
586 lost black ask
587 right possible strong
588 need Saturday gone
589 matter seem led
590 decision fire union
591 bank stay parents
592 countries interesting American
593 until matter production
594 makes usually as if
595 union phone date
596 terms nobody building
597 financial agree makes
598 needed Sunday everything
599 south city higher
600 university on to art
601 club course paper
602 president brought stage
603 friend sir 1990
604 parents father late
605 quality in terms of low
606 cos* because of conditions
607 building areas include
608 north development started
609 stage getting
610 meeting British Mr.
611 wo~ clear award
612 foreign happens shown
613 soon tape chapter
614 strong woman followed
615 situation amount ground
616 comes staff described
617 late services tax
618 bed trouble p.
619 recent David English
620 date street various
621 low page May
622 US send secretary
623 concerned around concerned
624 girl until king
625 hard easy despite
626 American difference royal
627 David lord pay
628 according to rest lot*
629 as if market meeting
630 twenty union results
631 higher basically expected
632 tax concerned David
633 used (to) form more than
634 production supposed April
635 various main clearly
636 understand centre B / b
637 led U / u schools
638 bring interest music
639 schools fair knowledge
640 ground real present
641 conditions London situation
642 secretary third hard
643 weeks letter girl
644 clearly love decided
645 bad white required
646 art eighteen students
647 start programme hospital
648 up to once poor
649 include Monday workers
650 poor child March
651 hospital position bed
652 friends power approach
653 decided ready friends
654 ~na* box series
655 shown okay* June
656 music dog tried
657 month plus ten
658 English speak ways
659 tried short game
660 game nearly remember
661 1990 takes natural
662 May stage anyone
663 anyone after field
664 wrong lots cost
665 ways others issue
666 chapter community love
667 followed red added
668 cost enough light
669 play special greater
670 present listen &
671 love themselves for
672 issue wonder bases
673 at all X / x month
674 goes age moved
675 described ought further
676 more than* towards understand
677 award H / h studies
678 Mr. till 6
679 king building 1989
680 royal unless news
681 results walk security
682 workers knows weeks
683 April trade hair
684 expected behind project
685 amount price feet
686 students F / f allowed
687 despite changed bring
688 knowledge piece amount
689 June less above
690 moved answer manager
691 news kids attention
692 light motion died
693 March expect heart
694 approach almost future
695 lord everyone actually
696 p. schools simple
697 cut authority 20
698 basis along kept
699 hair labour* met
700 required hell coming
701 further district force
702 paid anyone lord
703 series extra labour*
704 better type following
705 before bottom carried
706 field sell meet
707 allowed sitting movement
708 easy forget individual
709 kept ya analysis
710 questions food computer
711 natural yep French
712 live Paul considered
713 future carry success
714 rest large near
715 project education stood
716 greater social up to
717 feet cost easy
718 meet once agreement
719 simple love play
720 died fucking structure
721 for fairly 1991
722 happened news agreed
723 added jobs rest
724 C / c stand theory
725 manager worth cut
726 computer pardon account
727 security list current
728 near traffic per
729 met free population
730 evening giving paid
731 means kept evening
732 round half story
733 carried running questions
734 hear wish capital
735 bit* issue legal
736 heart cup whom
737 forward bits material
738 sent since performance
739 above normally modern
740 attention quarter growth
741 labour* actual Scotland
742 story game model
743 structure parents received
744 move hair sent
745 agreed order provided
746 nine period comes
747 & far in order
748 letter mentioned sort
749 individual both sea
750 force asking finally
751 studies change rights
752 movement points produced
753 account interested live
754 per hold board
755 call sent relationship
756 6 budget son
757 board cold parties
758 success become final
759 1989 chance environment
760 French body better
761 following telling letter
762 considered state books
763 current fourteen reached
764 everyone class authorities
765 fire pretty bad
766 agreement evening wrong
767 please add east
768 boy playing nor
769 capital church forward
770 stood shut everyone
771 analysis clearly 12
772 whatever tax property
773 population for example saying
774 20 numbers means
775 modern wife at all
776 theory sixteen built
777 books tried west
778 labour* felt behaviour
779 stop ways included
780 in order moved before
781 legal figures chance
782 Scotland doctor labour*
783 material daddy France
784 son hang record
785 received itself treatment
786 model allowed happened
787 chance size close
788 environment support fire
789 finally councillor prime
790 performance needs energy
791 sea friends previous
792 rights major director
793 growth available serious
794 authorities early example
795 provided spend recently
796 nice god significant
797 whom face space
798 produced south right
799 relationship experience total
800 talk meant boy
801 turn quid levels
802 built yo size
803 final friend design
804 east term along
805 1991 V / v normal
806 talking public July
807 fine late Peter
808 worked management start
809 west various quickly
810 parties need seven
811 size matter technology
812 record rather than 30
813 red board costs
814 close poor suddenly
815 property Jesus following
816 myself turned defence
817 gon~ meet giving
818 example use activities
819 space future details
820 giving quality choice
821 normal go loss
822 nor lady sat
823 reached simply red
824 buy gives issues
825 serious further term
826 quickly holiday income
827 Peter thirteen industrial
828 along yours pressure
829 plan bet away from
830 behaviour decision forces
831 France over there activity
832 recently girls worked
833 term hospital reported
834 previous houses scheme
835 couple figure hear
836 included bag continue
837 pounds a lot United
838 anyway moving association
839 cup Secretary throughout
840 treatment hot opened
841 energy colour cup
842 total care move
843 thank dinner consider
844 director planning relations
845 12 front hotel
846 prime floor won
847 levels story eight
848 significant paying Dr
849 issues straight parts
850 sat onto rates
851 income card hall
852 top Wednesday army
853 choice K / k generally
854 away from basis allow
855 costs bus 15
856 design worry myself
857 pressure hands outside
858 scheme accept sun
859 July written teachers
860 change single turn
861 a bit court spent
862 list support St
863 suddenly L / l stop
864 continue baby wide
865 technology imagine fine
866 hall team dead
867 takes known contract
868 ones bloody arms
869 details Oxford plan
870 happy fucking Soviet
871 consider definitely specific
872 won weekend lower
873 defence awful 7
874 following window military
875 parts department developed
876 loss places list
877 industrial quick wall
878 activities likely summer
879 throughout ball appropriate
880 spent picture appear
881 outside low top
882 teachers region season
883 generally coffee floor
884 opened reckon hon.
885 floor settlement de*
886 round light continued
887 activity however played
888 hope club product
889 points society George
890 association especially appeared
891 nearly decided takes
892 United rate call
893 allow section set
894 rates Thursday effects
895 sun quickly wo~
896 army chair unit
897 sorry law husband
898 wall normal ideas
899 hotel green announced
900 forces north basic
901 contract minus points
902 dead sorts investment
903 30 garden successful
904 Paul action original
905 stay possibly New
906 reported provide produce
907 as well ring showed
908 hour near style
909 difference otherwise 1988
910 meant station popular
911 summer Michael meant
912 county machine test
913 specific instead of village
914 numbers effect Germany
915 wide officers October
916 appropriate Peter whatever
917 husband books 1992
918 top himself change
919 played blue events
920 relations middle suggested
921 Dr happening products
922 figures air returned
923 chairman well Paul
924 set aware numbers
925 lower corner nearly
926 product bank beyond
927 colour learn science
928 ideas groups professional
929 George feet passed
930 St member each other
931 look agreed talk
932 arms terrible colour
933 obviously while interests
934 unless computer figures
935 produce and so on offered
936 changed foot event
937 season cost rules
938 developed project reasons
939 unit Tuesday economy
940 15 control risk
941 appear save direct
942 investment built employment
943 Soviet stupid top
944 test works couple
945 basic until dark
946 write soon September
947 village miles ensure
948 reasons earlier difference
949 military evidence resources
950 original open circumstances
951 successful whole help
952 garden lived happy
953 effects simple stay
954 each other upon aware
955 aware finish follows
956 yourself ground garden
957 exactly income commission
958 help husband designed
959 suppose involved sound
960 showed deal advice
961 style away from immediately
962 7 date a little
963 employment completely needs
964 passed issues America
965 appeared structure January
966 de* wall oil
967 page died unless
968 hold based goods
969 suggested anywhere sales
970 Germany football involved
971 continued space established
972 October along fell
973 offered help changed
974 products language buy
975 popular officer 8
976 science hit traditional
977 New financial window
978 window cars published
979 expect television Scottish
980 hon. hall lines
981 beyond totally blood
982 resources radio western
983 rules site chairman
984 professional wear goes
985 announced boys effective
986 economy sounds German
987 picture process fish
988 okay scheme picture
989 needs housing park
990 doctor Richard James
991 maybe industry response
992 events suggest degree
993 a little Britain please
994 direct strong press
995 gives needed operation
996 advice odd prices
997 running birthday hold
998 circumstances president round
999 sales music access
1000 risk terms title

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