How many words are there in the English language? How many words do you need to know for a powerful, advanced English vocabulary? According to the Global Language Monitor, a US based company, the number of words in the English language passed the 1 million mark on June 10, 2009.
However, according to the Oxford English Dictionary web site, it is impossible to answer this question as it depends on what you describe as a word. Do you count a word that has 3 or 4 meanings as 1 word or 4? What about words from other languages that have come into English such as French words used in cooking or Japanese words used in martial arts?
The Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for over 170,000 words in current use. This does not include technical vocabulary.
Thankfully you only need to know a small fraction of those words to be
able to speak English with confidence!
Some researchers say that with a vocabulary of just 800 words you can make yourself understood well in English.
However, at testyourvocab.com, estimates from participants in their vocabulary test show that most native English speakers are in the range 20,000-35,000 words.
The most common range for non-native speakers and those learning English is between 2,500 and 9,000 words.
The Oxford 3000 is a list of 3,000 words compiled by language experts and experienced teachers. They believe this list contains words which should receive priority because of their importance and usefulness. Click here to view and bookmark it: Oxford 3000 Wordlist
An easier list is the Top 1000 list prepared by vocabulary.com. This web site provides excellent help in developing vocabulary. Click here for the Top 1000 list with exercises and practice tests to help you: The Vocabulary.com Top 1000
Vocabulary.com is also a good site for getting definitions of words and for reading sentence examples. Enter a word in the search box at the top of the page and then look at “Usage Examples” on the right side for current examples of the word in use from various sources (see graphic at end of this section).
Make a decision to start building a powerful English vocabulary today! The larger your vocabulary, the more confident you will feel when speaking English.
Step 1: We see a new word and find out it’s meaning. It now becomes part of our RECOGNITION vocabulary. We may hear the word when listening to English or see it in writing and we can understand the meaning of the sentence it is in. However, at this point, we are not using it in our own conversation.
Step 2: The word moves from our RECOGNITION vocabulary to our ACTIVE vocabulary. After we have seen or read the word a number of times we feel more comfortable with this word and it naturally starts to enter our own conversation, easily coming to mind when we are speaking. We now OWN that word.
Here is a suggestion: Get an estimate of your current vocabulary size by taking the test at: testyourvocab.com. Then, for the next one or two months, use the tools at The Vocabulary.com Top 1000 to start learning new words. Then take the testyourvocab test again and notice your improvement.
Your RECOGNITION vocabulary will start to improve, an important 1st step. Once the words are in your RECOGNITION vocabulary they can then move into your ACTIVE vocabulary after you see or hear them a number of times.
An important tip: When learning new words, avoid learning words in lists by themselves. Instead, try to learn the word as part of a phrase so you can see how to use it naturally.
For example, when putting words into a program such as Anki Flashcards, don’t just enter a word like “petrified” by itself. Rather, connect it with another word and make a phrase such as “petrified of spiders“.
Don’t just learn “condone” but learn the phrase “condone violence”. If you can link it to a graphic or photo, even better.
If you use Vocabulary.com, make sure you pay special attention to the Usage Examples mentioned above so you see how the word is naturally used in sentence. After spending some time with these tools you will be amazed at how you can develop a powerful, advanced English vocabulary.