most-common-english-words

Small but Mighty: The 30 Most Common English Words You Need to Form Any Sentence

They may be small, but do not underestimate them.

English words do not need to be long and complicated to cause confusion.

Is it to? Or two? Or maybe too?

Wear will I find the answer? Wait, that is wrong.

We’re will I find the answer? Ah, wrong again!

Where will I find the answer?

In fact, one of the hardest parts of English is mastering those small but common English words that you hear in practically every sentence.

The good news is that once you learn the most common English words—and how to use them properly in different situations—you will suddenly be able to express almost any idea!

Here we have all the information you need to learn the most common English words and their meanings. We also have some tips to help make your vocabulary studies even easier.
 


 
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Why Is It Helpful to Learn Common English Words?

It is no good knowing big and complicated words if you do not understand the small and simple ones.

Think of common English words like the building blocks of language. They allow you to build strong sentences. They allow you to build many different types of sentences. You will use them again and again to express basic ideas in English.

Knowing common English words also helps you better understand English speakers. As you will see in our list below, these words are used constantly. If you cannot understand any of them, it will create a big gap in your English comprehension.

Finally, it is important to study common English words because it can be easy to mix them up. Some of them look very similar or have similar meanings. Others may be hard to explain or may have slightly different meanings when used in different contexts.

Later in this article, we will organize the most common English words into categories to make it easy to remember how to use them.

Practical Activities to Help You Learn Common Words

Seeing, reading and using words consistently will help them become memorable to you.

Learn Words in Real Contexts with FluentU

FluentU provides authentic English videos, like movie trailers, music videos, inspiring talks and more, that have been supercharged with personalized vocabulary building tools.

Each video comes with interactive captions. Hover your mouse over any word and the video will automatically pause. FluentU will give you a definition, memorable picture and native pronunciation for the word. Then you can go right back to watching the video!

FluentU also provides flashcards and exercises for every video, so you do not forget the words when you are done watching. FluentU will also keep track of your progress and suggest new videos based on what you have already learned.

This all means that you get to watch entertaining English videos while ensuring that you actually learn from them!

You will hear the most common English words over and over throughout these videos. For example, in this adorable video filmed at Google, you will hear kids use the common English verbs be and do several times (more on those verbs later in this article).

The videos are organized by genre and level so it is easy to find ones that work for you. Check out the full video library with a FluentU trial here.

Use Sticky Notes

Choose the common English words that are most important or difficult to you. Write each word on a sticky note (like Post-it notes). Then place the sticky notes around your house or workplace.

Each time you pass one, read or say the word. Try spelling it out and using it in a sentence.

This activity will boost your memory and help you to use words in your daily conversations and writing.

Keep a Diary

Diaries help you reflect on your learning. Look back and write about moments in your day and try to use at least five or 10 common English words. Using the words you have learned helps keep them in your brain.

Writing your learning in a diary also makes you feel good! It gives you a confidence boost. It also means you have a handy notebook you can use whenever you feel stuck for words!

Play Games with Words

Play with your words! Learn a language game such as hangman, crosswords or Scrabble. These are popular English word games where you will encounter many common words. They help create a fun and memorable learning experience.

Be a Word Detective

Look for common English words around you every day. Look at English signs and posters. Search in newspapers and magazines. Browse the internet. Challenge yourself to see how many common English words you can find.

This activity makes you realize just how often English speakers use these words! It turns every day into an engaging English lesson.

Ask What They Mean

Do not be shy. Learning common English words is as easy as asking!

When you are in English class or talking with native English speakers, do not be afraid to ask what a word means if you do not understand it!

Ask them to repeat the pronunciation and why they used the word the way they did. Asking an English speaker directly is a great way to get helpful explanations that you will understand.

Discover the 30 Most Common English Words and How to Use Them

The list below was compiled using data from the Corpus of Contemporary American English.

We will focus on the 30 most commonly used English words—however, as stated earlier, we will organize them into categories to make them more memorable. You can see the words in order of frequency (how often they are used) on this page.

We have also provided their meanings and how best to use them in your everyday life.

Articles

the

The is called a “definite article.” It is used before a noun (person, place or thing), when you want to reference something specific.

The sandwich I ate for lunch was delicious.

a

By contrast, a is called an “indefinite article.” It is also used before a noun, but it is used when talking about something that is not specific.

I would love to eat a sandwich.

When used before a word that starts with a vowel sound, a becomes an.

I would love to eat an apple.

Verbs

Verbs are action words. Remember that English verbs sometimes change their spelling depending on the subject and tense of the sentence.

be

Be is used to communicate the existence or state of something.

Everyone wants to be free.

have 

Have is the word you use to show ownership. It can refer to objects or things that belong to you, as well as more abstract concepts.

I have a cat.

I have a meeting today. 

Another common use of the word have is to indicate something you need to do.

I have to go grocery shopping because there is no food in the house.

do

Do is used when talking about completing an action.

I will do my work.

say

Say means to communicate verbally. When we talk to someone else, we say words to them.

I say hello to my mother when I see her.

Conjunctions

Conjunctions are used to connect ideas within a sentence.

and

Two ideas can be joined in one sentence using the word and. This helps make a sentence more detailed.

The girl went to the kitchen and made a cup of coffee.

I am wearing a sweater and a jacket.

or

The word or works similar to and. However, it connects separate ideas or shows how the second idea is different from the first idea. It is used to show another option or way of thinking about something.

Would you like tea or coffee?

We can have the meeting in the office or by phone.

but

The word but connects two ideas together to show how they are the opposite or different. It is used to explain how two unrelated or contrary things are happening.

It was sunny but she was cold.

I want to go to the bar, but I have to finish my work.

Prepositions

Prepositions tell you where a noun is in relation to other things.

of

Of is a very useful word that helps to explain the relationship between things.

You will often hear it used to describe someone’s or something’s role or position.

The president of the United States.

Of can also tell us where things are. This is usually explained with words that describe direction such as to the right of or to the left of.

The table is to the right of the door.

It can also divide up objects.

I read most of the books.

I took a piece of the pie.

for

Here is one of those common English words that has tons of different uses.

Typically, for is used to add reasoning or meaning to another idea.

I am going to the pool for a swim.

He stopped eating sugar for his health.

It is also often used to show intention, possession or purpose.

This present is for you.

I ordered waffles for breakfast.

in

In explains the position of something using the internal space of another noun. It is the opposite of the word out.

The girl is in the car.

to

To usually shows movement between places.

The boy walked to the park.

with

The word with is used when two things are together. It helps describe things that are happening or existing at the same time.

My phone is with my keys.

on

If something is on something else, it means it is in contact with the object’s top surface.

The food is on the table.

On also commonly refers to electronic devices that are currently being used.

Turn the TV on so we can watch something!

from

From is used to show a starting point. It explains where something originated or when something started to happen. From helps to describe an amount of time or distance.

I come from China. 

It will take 10 minutes to walk from the shops.

at

At tells us where or when something is happening. It explains if a noun is in, on or near a certain place.

He is at the beach.

At also explains the time events take place.

She eats at noon every day.

by

By helps people explain when something is near something else.

She sat by the tree.

It also shows how people use things with the help of something else.

She got on the train by the back door.

Pronouns

it

It can be used in place of a noun. This word is usually used to talk about objects, not people.

Our house is new. It is small and white.

I

I is used when you are talking about yourself. Instead of saying your name, you can use the word I.

I am happy today.

you

In the same way I is used to talk about yourself, you is used to speak of another person. It is used when talking directly to one other person.

What do you think?

he

He is another word that can be used to replace a noun. He is used when you are talking about a male, but not talking to the male directly.

My dad is funny. He tells me jokes.

she

She is used when talking about a female that is not being directly spoken to.

She was talking on her phone.

they

They refers to a group of objects or people that are not included in the conversation.

The students in the class are tired. They need a break.

we

Instead of using the word I to speak as one person, use we to refer to a whole group that you are part of. A group with two or more people can use the word we.

We like going to the movies.

Miscellaneous

The words below can serve multiple purposes and may be categorized differently depending on context. We will focus on the most common uses of each word below.

his

The word his is used to show when a male owns something.

Shockingly, while his is the 25th most-common English word, hers (the word that shows possession of something by a female) is 3,885th in the Corpus of Contemporary American English list.

His car is old.

The man waved to his family. 

that

That is used when you are making a reference to a specific person, thing or idea that is not involved directly in the conversation.

Look at that beautiful tree across the street!

this

This is a very similar word to that, and many English learners have trouble distinguishing between the two. Generally speaking, use this with objects that are more immediate or closer to you.

This ring looks wonderful on my finger.

not

The word not helps express negation. It explains the absence of a thing, action, state of being, etc.

It will not rain today. 

She is not at work. 

n’t

Okay, here is a weird one.

No native English speaker would tell you that n’t is a word. However, since it is used so frequently to show negation, it gets its own space in the Corpus of Contemporary American English word list.

Adding n’t to the end of words shows when not is being used as a contraction.

When combining not with another word, not is shortened to n’t. It is then added onto the end of the other word. This creates a new word.

For example, the two words is and not are combined to make the contraction isn’t.

I can’t study today.

My mail hasn’t arrived. 

 

They may look small, but the words in our list are very important. Learning these common English words will greatly improve your English communication skills. Then you can go on to enjoy speaking, reading and writing with confidence!

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