How many English words do you need to know in daily speech?

October 2, 2020

The famous, over 150-year-old Oxford English Dictionary includes 600 000 English words. Of course, only a fraction of them are in active use nowadays.

In practice, the vocabulary of a native English speaker consists of about 20 000–35 000 words. In contrast, the vocabulary of a student of English as a foreign language usually consists of about 2 500–9 000 words.

Does that sound like a lot? In daily speech – at home, at work, and when travelling – you luckily need to be able to actively produce only about 1 000–5 000 words. The broader and more diverse your vocabulary is, the easier it is to get conversations going and to understand your interlocutor.

In addition to learning individual words, you must know how to use them in the right context to be able to make natural use of a language. A good vocabulary, however, forms a strong basis for learning a language, onto which other areas of language learning, such as grammar, are built upon.

Important passive vocabulary

Your passive vocabulary, in turn, consists of words that you recognise and understand but which you cannot actively produce yourself. However, even the words you passively know help you to learn English  – when you are able to listen to podcasts or read books in English, your language skills get stronger and more varied. You learn, for example, sentence structures, natural expressions and culture.

WordDive’s Comprehensive British English course package consists of 5 630 learnable items which all are presented in connection to their applications, i.e. in context. We can state with confidence that with WordDive you will learn all the language skills needed in normal everyday life.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Anya Nelson November 18, 2020 at 19:46

    I really like the fact that I do not need to know all the words to be able to understand and speak English.
    My passive vocabulary does not yet allow me to speak freely on topics that interest me but at least I can clearly ask for help or advice and also discuss some global issues.

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