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The Most Common Words in English

Since numbers seem to interest everyone, I thought I’d post a list of the most common words in English. This list is derived from the British National Corpus, which was put together by the Information Technology Research Institute at the University of Brighton based on millions of words of transcribed conversation, printed text, lectures, and speeches.  It also counts as one word closely related words (e.g.: this and these). So without further ado, here we go…

6.18% the
4.23% is, was, be, are, ’s (= is), were, been, being, ‘re, ‘m, am
2.94% of
2.68% and
2.46% a, an
1.80% in, inside (preposition)
1.62% to (infinitive verb marker)
1.37% have, has, have, ‘ve, ’s (= has), had, having, ‘d (= had)
1.27% he, him, his
1.25% it, its
1.17% I, me, my
0.91% to (preposition)
0.86% they, them, their
0.86% not, n’t, no (interjection)
0.83% for
0.83% you, your
0.70% she, her
0.65% with
0.64% on
0.62% that (conjunction)
0.58% this, these
0.57% that (demonstrative), those
0.55% do, did, does, done, doing
0.51% we, us, our
0.50% by
0.47% at
0.45% but (conjunction)
0.44% ’s (possessive)
0.41% from
0.40% as (many parts of speech)
0.37% which
0.37% or
0.31% will, ‘ll
0.28% said, say, says, saying
0.25% would
0.25% what
0.23% there (existential, in “there is …” phrases)
0.23% if
0.23% can
0.22% all
0.22% who, whose
0.21% so (adverb / conjunction)
0.20% go, went, gone, goes
0.20% more
0.19% other, another
0.19% one (numeral)
0.18% see, saw, seen, seeing
0.18% know, knew, known, knows, knowing

The items in this list make up about 43% of the corpus. Which means that over four tenths of the words are pronouns, conjunctions, other function-words and a few common verbs. And this means that much of what we say is built up around these basic components.

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