What’s the one thing you need more than anything else to communicate in English?
Vocabulary, of course!
Sure, you could learn all the English grammar rules there are to know, and you could have amazing English pronunciation, but without vocabulary, you’d be very limited to what you could actually say, grammar skills and pronunciation aside.
But, how far do you think you’d get if you only had a vocabulary of 100 words?
Not very far, huh?
You’ll need something bigger!
But where do you even start growing this vast vocabulary?
What you need, my friend is a good English vocabulary list or rather, several, to help you skyrocket your vocabulary!
Having a wide vocabulary is key to having easy and natural English conversations, and this in itself should be pretty good motivation.
The Key to Learning Vocabulary: The Pareto Principle
How many English words do you really need to know in order to be able to comfortably communicate in English?
1,000? 10,000? 100,000?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by numbers. But, you shouldn’t because there’s good news.
According to the Pareto Principle, learning the top 20% of the most commonly used English words allows you to understand 80% of the English language.
Better yet, knowing the most common 3,000 words allows you to understand 95% of it!
In fact, to learn English effectively, you should aim to learn the most commonly used words first. This will serve as a strong foundation from which to continue to grow your vocabulary into the intermediate and advanced stages.
How to Use English Vocabulary Lists
Now that you know how many words you need to initially (in the beginning) learn, how do you figure out exactly which words you should learn first?
The most common English words actually vary depending on how and where you plan on using English.
The vocabulary lists that you seek out should be on topics that you know you’ll use most often.
In other words, they should be the most common words that are the most useful to your purpose for learning English.
This means that you need to decide why you’re learning English in the first place, so that you can then plan what vocabulary you need to focus on learning first.
Are you learning English for travel or work?
Will you be living in an English-speaking country where you’ll need English for everyday life?
Will you need academic English for university studies?
It’s up to you, and the answers are endless!
Next, you need to find a way to learn the words in a way that’s meaningful for you.
While memorizing vocabulary lists seems like the most common way to learn vocabulary (and may actually be the style that works for you), it’s not the only way.
Learn words in context by listening to English podcasts, watching television shows and reading simple texts.
Aside from listening and reading, it’s also important to review the new vocabulary that you come across.
Keeping an ongoing list and reviewing it often will help you keep those words in your long-term memory.
The last part of vocabulary building is to put the vocabulary you learn into use.
But first, let’s get you those vocabulary lists so that you can start building your English vocabulary inventory (a complete list) today.
Top 7 English Vocabulary Lists to Skyrocket Your English Skills
Education First (EF) is an international organization that helps people learn languages on location in countries where that language is spoken. EF also offers many additional language learning resources online.
EF’s English vocabulary lists are best for beginners. I’d recommend starting with the shorter lists available, namely the top 100 most common words, the top 50 English adjectives, the top 50 nouns and the top 50 verbs.
After completing those, there are larger lists compiling all types of words. These include the top 1,000 most common English words and the top 3,000 English words that can be used to grow your vocabulary to an intermediate or advanced level.
Keep in mind, however, that EF simply gives you lists of English words. You’ll have to put in some work to figure out the meaning of the words and to create a way to practice them.
FluentU English is a language learning program and app that lets you learn vocabulary words in context.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
FluentU English is perfect for all levels of English. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced learner, you can search for content and word lists based on your language level, as well as the specific topic that you’re interested in.
With FluentU, you can target the specific vocabulary that you want to learn for your language goals and needs.
Each lesson begins with a video or audio recording, as well as interactive subtitles. You can place your cursor over any of the words in the subtitles to show their meaning, as well as pronunciation tips and grammatical information.
Best of all, you can add the words that you want to remember or review later to your very own collection of digital flashcards.
So whether you’re learning English conjunctions, travel phrases, vocabulary for working in a hotel, terms to run a business or just want to have basic Engilsh exchanges, you’ll find endless videos, lessons and vocabulary lists to help you master that vocabulary and more.
Rather than simply being a list though, each lesson includes multiple tasks to help you learn the vocabulary words. These tasks include matching words to pictures, putting words in alphabetical order and grouping words with common attributes (characteristics or qualities).
ESOL is a company that provides online English lessons and courses for English language learners.
On this particular webpage, there are 24 lessons for learning basic English vocabulary for beginner and intermediate learners.
As a learner, you can choose to go through the lessons in the order presented to get a wide overview, or you could focus on the topics that are most applicable (useful) to you, such as pets, numbers, colors and shopping.
Each lesson begins with a list of the vocabulary words, as well as helpful pictures and definitions. You’ll also find matching activities and practice tests to reinforce the words you learn.
Our next resource is a straightforward word-frequency list. This list of common words is based on how often they’re used in English based on different scientific studies.
In fact, this list in particular uses the “Corpus of Contemporary American English” to determine word frequency.
From that study, a list of the 5,000 most commonly used English words has been put together.
This list of words is organized in three ways: By frequency, alphabetically and by part of speech (such a nouns, verbs, et cetera).
This resource is recommended for intermediate and advanced learners. It’s a perfect list to help fill in the gaps from other shorter lists that you might be using and to further grow vocabulary beyond your current level.
Wiktionary is an open-sourced dictionary that’s put together by internet users from around the world. In fact, Simple Wiktionary is specifically for learners of English who aren’t fluent in the language.
This list includes the 1,000 most common words in English. Each word is attached to a hyperlink that allows users to click and get an easy-to-understand definition as well as example sentences.
Despite not offering much in the way of practice, this list is organized alphabetically and is recommended for beginner and intermediate learners.
In addition to Simple Wiktionary, there’s Simple Wikipedia that includes over 150,000 articles in simple English that are perfect for English learners who want to improve their reading abilities and learn vocabulary words from context.
PasteBin “The Simpsons” Frequency List
“The Simpsons” is one of the most well-known comedy cartoons in the English-speaking world, and this frequency list has the 5,000 most frequently-used words used in the television show.
The show has nearly 700 episodes, so you can imagine how much vocabulary can be taken from it. This is a very good list for intermediate and advanced learners who are looking to learn English by watching English media such as TV shows or movies.
Again, this is just a list, so you’ll have to create your own method to really learn and practice the words.
I’d personally recommend that you study this list in conjunction with (along with) watching the TV show. That would be an effective and entertaining way to learn the words in context.
Keep in mind, however, that there are some words specific to the television show.
For example, “Marge” is the name of the mother in the show and not actually a commonly used English word. It might be a good idea to read about the show before using this vocabulary list.
Now you have some of the best English vocabulary lists right at your fingertips. Start using them today and watch your English language start to really take off and soar!
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.