You don’t need to learn all the words of English before you can start to speak it. Remember all we’ve discussed about building your confidence by learning to speak actual English sentences quickly.
One key to this is to first learn the words that matter most.
Take advantage of the famous Pareto efficiency principle, that 20% of things create 80% of the results. Focus on learning the 20% of words that are used in 80% of English conversation.
The 100 most common words in English (see below) make up almost 50% of words in conversation! The 300 most common words make up 65% of conversation and can be used to express over 70% of conversation. So it is critical that you learn these words first.
Then you have a very strong foundation to begin talking. After you learn the 100 most common words, learn the 300 most common words, then the 1,000 most common words – by then you will have the words that make up over 85% of English conversation among native English-speakers. And you will be able to clearly, accurately express over 97% of whatever you need to.
Below you will find the 100 most common words. But you can also use apps and lists online to give you flashcards that help you to learn the most frequently used words faster. The Anki App is an excellent one to get started with.
100 Most Common Spoken Words in English
Remember, never learn a word alone. Always put it into many different sentences immediately. As you progress, gradually expand the list so that you are carefully focusing on learning the words that matter. The memory techniques in later chapters will help you to do this ten times more quickly.
When using dictionaries, to make sure that they are helping you to focus on the most frequently used words, you can use smaller dictionaries. They’re easier to carry around anyway. You can even find frequency dictionaries, which will have only the 1,000 or 2,000 most common words.
Easier words for memorization
Another way you can be more efficient as you begin learning vocabulary, is to focus on the words which are easier to remember. Of course, the very easiest of these are the words which are the same in English as in your own native language . Then for the rest of English vocabulary, if you follow the methods in this book, you will be using very effective visual memorization
techniques, flash cards and spaced repetition . Even if you choose not to use these techniques, you will find it easier to initially memorize words that are more visual in nature.
The focus of this book is to give you a better overall strategy for learning English, rather than giving you the actual components of the English language itself. You can get them from anywhere, primarily real conversation and the internet.
But because it fits our focus on efficiency so well, here are a list of about 600 words in English – all within the 2,000 most common words – which all lend themselves very easily to visualization techniques. You could set yourself a daily task of memorizing 20 a day over the next two months, and quickly have a very strong and broad foundation of words to fill up most conversational needs. If 20 words a day sounds like a lot, please read until chapter 13 now. If you combine the visualization
memory techniques, flash cards and spaced repetition, you will find that 20 words is taking it very easy. There is no reason why you cannot absorb 40 or 60 of these words a day, or even many more. Especially these 600 words, which are chosen because of their very visual nature, making them easy to create memorable images for. Why not set yourself the challenge, it will be fun and could change your entire experience of the English language, in just a couple of short months. As you read these lists, if other words jump to your mind, add them in, they are obviously more relevant to you. And as the following chapter will emphasize, you should always focus on what is most relevant to you personally. Here are around 600 easy-to-visualize commonly used words by category;
Verbs: beat, bend, break, build, burn, buy, call, carry, catch, clean, close, cook, count, cry, cut, dance, die, dig, draw, drink, drive, eat, explode, fall, feed, fight, find, fly, follow, go, grow, hang, hear, jump, kill, kiss, laugh, learn, lie down, lift, listen, lose, love, marry, melt, mi, stir, open, pray, pass by, pay, play, pull, push, run, see, sell, shake, shoot, sign, sing, sit, sleep, smell, smile, speak, say, stand, stop, swim, taste, teach, think, throw, touch, turn, wake up, walk, wash, watch, wear, win, work, write.
Adjectives: alive, bad, beautiful, big, large, blind, cheap, clean, cold, cool, curved, dark, dead, deaf,
deep, dirty, dry, expensive, famous, fast, flat, female, good, happy, hard, healthy, heavy, high, hot,
long, light, light, loose, loud, low, male, mean, narrow, new, nice, nuclear, old, poor, quiet, rich, sad,
shallow, short, sick, slow, small, little, soft, strong, tall, thick, thin, tight, ugly, warm, weak, wet, wide,
People: adult, man, woman, baby, boy, brother, child, boy, girl, crowd, daughter, family, fan, father, friend, girl, grandfather, grandmother, human, husband, king, man, mother, neighbour, parent, mother, father, player, person, president, queen, sister, son, victim, wife, woman.
Job: actor, army, artist, author, doctor, job, lawyer, manager, patient, police, priest, reporter, secretary, soldier, student, teacher, waiter.
Food: apple, banana, beef, bottle, bread, breakfast, cake, cheese, chicken, corn, cup, dinner, egg, food, fork, knife, lemon, lunch, oil, orange, plate, pork, rice, salt, seed, soup, spoon, sugar.
Drinks: coffee, beer, beverage, juice, milk, tea, water, wine.
Color: black, blue, light, dark, brown, gray, green, orange, pink, red, white, yellow.
Animal: animal, bird, cat, cow, dog, fish, horse, mouse, pig, wing.
Transportation: bicycle, boat, bus, car, engine, gasoline, plane, ship, ticket, tire, train, transportation, truck.
Location: airport, apartment, bank, bar, bridge, building, camp, church, city, club, country, court, farm, ground, hospital, hotel, house, library, location, market, office, park, restaurant, room, school,space (outer space), store, shop, street/road, theatre, town, train station, university.
Clothing: coat, dress, hat, pants, trousers, pocket, shirt, shoes, skirt, stain, suit, t-shirt.
Home: bag, bathroom, bed, bedroom, book, box, card, ceiling, chair, door, dream, floor, garden, gift, key, kitchen, letter, lock, needle, note, paint, page, paper, pen, pencil, photograph, pool, ring, roof, soap, table, telephone, tool, wall, window, yard.
Electronics: camera, cell phone, clock, computer, fan, lamp, laptop, network, program, radio, screen, television.
Body: arm, back, beard, blood, body, bone, brain, disease, ear, eye, face, finger, foot, hair, hand, head, heart, knee, leg, lip, mouth, neck, nose, shoulder, skin, sweat, tear, toe, tongue, tooth, voice.
Nature: air, beach, Earth, fire, flower, forest, grass, heat, hill, ice, island, lake, leaf, moon, mountain,nature, ocean, plant, rain, river, root, sand, sea, sky, snow, soil, earth, star, sun, tree, valley, wave, wind, world.
Society: attack, ball, bill, contract, death, dollar, drug, election, energy, exercise, game, God, gun, heaven, hell, magazine, marriage, medicine, money, murder, newspaper, peace, poison, price, prison, race (ethnicity), race (sport), religion, science, sex (the act), sex (gender), sign, sport, team, technology, war, wedding.
Art: art, band, instrument, musical, movie, music, song.
Materials: clay, copper, diamond, dust, glass, gold, material, metal, plastic, silver, stone, wood.
Math/Measurements: centimeter, circle, corner, date, edge, foot, half, inch, kilogram, meter, pound, square temperature, weight.
Directions: back, bottom, direction, down, east, front, inside, left, north, outside, right, side, south, straight, top, up, west.
Seasons: season, Fall (USA)/Autumn (UK), Spring, Summer, Winter.
Numbers: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 30, 31, 32, 40, 41, 42, 50, 51, 52, 60, 61, 62, 70, 71, 72, 80, 81, 82, 90, 91, 92, 100, 101, 102, 110, 111, 1000, 1001, 10000, 100000, million, billion, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, number.
Months: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December.
Days of the week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
Time: afternoon, day, evening, hour, minute, month, morning, night, second, time, week, year.
Once again, as you read through these categories, when other examples jump to your mind with an image attached – add them in and memorize them too!
Not only should you know the most common words used in English, take this one step further and focus on the most common words You as an individual will use in English. Let’s talk more about this in the next chapter.