English has a large vocabulary with an estimated 250,000 distinct words and three times that many distinct meanings of words. However, most English teachers will tell you that mastering the 3000 most common words in English will give you 90 to 95% comprehension of English newspapers, books, movies, and conversations. In addition, with that size of a vocabulary, you'll easily be able to learn from context to expand your vocabulary as you go. The important thing is choosing the right words to learn so you gain comprehension quickly and don't waste time.
Learn the most common words first
One of the most effective ways to prioritize your English vocabulary studies is to start with the most common words. The links below give you some short lists to get started with if you're a true beginner. Use a dictionary or other online resources to look up the meanings of words you don't know. Flashcards, either paper-based or online, are still one of the most effective ways to learn new words. The key to memorizing English vocabulary is regular practice.
- A list of the 100 most common words in English
- A list of the 50 most common nouns in English
- A list of the 50 most common verbs in English
- A list of the 50 most common adjectives in English
Learn new vocabulary in a logical way
Once you've mastered the short vocabulary lists, you can move on to the more comprehensive ones below. Remember, although a native English speaker has a vocabulary of 20,000 words or more, learning just 3,000 words is enough to understand most of everyday English conversation and writing as long as you're working from the right list. The lists below are based on word frequency, so you won't find vocabulary like "tiger", "skirt", or "spaghetti", all common in beginner English lists but not all that useful. To learn English faster and more efficiently, focus on memorizing the most common vocabulary first, rather than a haphazard collection of words that you are unlikely to use.