The most common spoken words in English
by Adriana Stein
December 15, 2020
woman listening to the The most spoken words in English on her phone

Modern English is a conglomerate of vocabulary from many different languages and varies widely depending on the country it’s spoken it. Even still, there are a few common words and phrases that English speakers around the globe use on the regular. If you’re learning English, this is a helpful list to refer to for foundational vocabulary.

Words English speakers say all the time

More than 840 million people speak English as their first or second language, which makes it the second most-spoken language in the world after Chinese Mandarin. So if you’re in the process of learning English, don’t fret – many people have successfully done it! And once you learn to speak, you’ll have a world of opportunities and new people you can communicate with.

As with any language, learning English starts with learning the basics: vocabulary. So that you know which ones to prioritise, I’ve broken the most commonly spoken words into different categories.

Pronouns

The majority of sentences in English start with a pronoun to clarify who is the subject. These are:

  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • they

To mention something important about “you”: some languages such as German have different words for formal vs informal you (“Sie” for formal and “du” for informal). In English, we only have the word “you” for both situations, but we do distinguish them by using particular words and being more polite.

Common verbs in English

After each subject, then comes a verb. Here are some of the most common verbs in English:

  • get
  • have
  • be
  • to
  • do
  • make
  • say
  • talk
  • walk
  • go
  • eat
  • sleep
  • work
  • read
  • ask
  • help
  • know
  • would
  • could
  • can
  • should
  • need
  • feel
  • become
  • leave
  • come
  • start
  • stop

“Get” is infamous for being one of the most flexible words in the whole English language. How you use it depends entirely on the context. To give you a better idea, here are a few examples: 

  • Can you please get me a coffee? (Here “get” means either bring or make.)
  • I totally get you, that makes sense. (Here “get” means understand.)
  • I heard someone knocking. Can you please get the door? (Here “get” means open.)
  • He got the gift instead of his sister. (Here “get” means receive.)
  • I have to get home now, it’s so late! (Here “get” means go.)

For nearly every circumstance, there are alternative verbs for “get”, but if you want to truly sound like a native English speaker, using “get” is much more commonly used, especially when speaking.

Nouns

Nouns are used to describe a person, place. or thing. A few of the most common English nouns are:

  • thing
  • people
  • woman
  • man
  • child
  • family
  • dog
  • cat
  • door
  • window
  • table
  • chair
  • kitchen
  • bed
  • blanket
  • dishes
  • towel
  • shoes
  • socks
  • pants
  • shirt
  • dress
  • floor
  • food
  • drinks
  • water

My biggest recommendation for learning English nouns is to make sticky notes around the house for each item. Then each time you look at it, you’re reminded of that word. Because you start learning vocabulary according to your surroundings, they’re more familiar and become easier to memorise.

Another pro tip: if you don’t know the word for a noun when speaking to someone, just refer to it as “thing” and try to describe it. Honestly even native English speakers do this all the time when we’re feeling lazy!

Question words

When you want to transform your sentence into a question, you’ll often begin with a question word. Here is a quick overview of English question words:

  • why
  • where
  • who
  • how
  • when
  • which
  • whose
  • what

Prepositions in English

Prepositions are another essential element of English grammar, because they are combined with many other words to form phrases. The most common prepositions are:

  • to
  • in
  • out
  • for
  • with
  • on
  • since
  • at
  • until
  • by
  • as
  • about
  • into
  • between
  • against

When I worked as an English teacher, one of the most commonly asked questions about prepositions was the difference between until and by in the context of due dates. Here is an example to clarify:

  • The students need to turn in their homework by Monday. (Here we’re only stating the fixed deadline.)
  • The students have until Monday to turn in their homework. (Here we’re talking about the total time period up until the deadline.)

English Adjectives

Adjectives are the spices of language and English is no exception. Here are a few of the most commonly used adjectives:

  • awesome
  • wonderful
  • easy
  • difficult
  • hard
  • big
  • small
  • beautiful
  • cool
  • new
  • old
  • pretty
  • fantastic

By the way, if you’re speaking with an American, always go for the word “awesome”. I am one myself and we use it constantly (probably too much haha).

Miscellaneous English words

There are some popular, miscellaneous filler words that are important to keep in mind as well:

  • like
  • and
  • but
  • so
  • well
  • too
  • just
  • more
  • this
  • that
  • because
  • very
  • even
  • quite
  • may
  • maybe
  • another
  • few
  • here
  • there

A quick note on “like”: if you’ve watched American TV series like Friends, The Big Bang Theory, or Family Guy, you’ll notice that they use the word “like” all the time. It’s one of the words that is basically pure slang and has a few different meanings. A few examples are:

  • I was talking to my friend and he was like “I had such a bad day yesterday”. (Here “like” is another word for “said” and it’s often used in the context of telling a story of a previous conversation.)
  • I spoke to my sister yesterday and she was like seriously tired after working so much. (Here “like” means really, as in to emphasise the tiredness.)
  • I talked to my boss yesterday to ask for a day off and he said no. Like, how could he be so mean? (Here “like” emphasises the surprising element of the other person’s response.)

In the same manner as “get”, this is another word that becomes clear once you hear how others use it and you become more advanced in your speaking skills.

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