Absolutely Essential English

The first word list consists of words common to both the International Kindergarten Union list and the first 500 words of Thorndike's frequency list in The Teacher's Word Book. The result is 472 words that are not only very common but also familiar to most English-speaking children before entering first grade.

a about above across afraid after again against air all almost alone along also always am an and another answer any apple are arm around as ask at away back bad ball bank be bear beautiful because bed been before begin behind being believe best better between big bird black blow blue body book both box boy bread bring brother brought build burn but buy by call came can care carry case cause change child children church city clear close cold color come company corn could country course cover cross cut dark day dead dear deep did die do does done door down draw dress drink drive drop each ear early earth east eat egg end enough even ever every eye face fair fall family far fast father feel feet few field fill find fine fire first five floor flower fly follow food foot for found four fresh friend from front full garden gave get girl give glad go God gold good got great green ground grow had hair half hand happy hard has have he head hear heart heavy help her here high hill him himself his hold home hope horse hot house how hundred I if in into is it its just keep kill kind king know land large last late laugh lay lead learn leave left let letter light like line little live long look lost love low made make man many mark matter may me mean measure meet men might mile milk mind mine miss money month more morning most mother mountain move much must my name near need never new next night no north not nothing now number of off often old on once one only open or other our out over own paper part pass pay people picture piece place plain plant play please point poor present pretty put quick rain reach read ready reason red remember rest rich ride right river road rock roll room round run said sail same save saw say school sea second see seem seen send sent serve set several shall she ship short should show side silver sing sister sit six sleep small so soft soldier some something sometime soon sound south speak spring stand start stay step still stone stop story street strong such summer sun sure sweet table take talk tell ten than thank that the their them then there these they thing think this those though thought thousand three through till time tire to today together too top town train tree true try turn two under until up upon us use very visit wait walk wall want war warm was watch water way we week well went were what when where which while white who whole why wide will wind window winter wish with without woman wood word work world would write year yet you young your

This next list was excerpted from an updated version of the General Service List (compiled by John Bauman in 1995). It should be noted that, unlike the last list, this one consists solely of headwords. This means, for example, that the listing `a` actually stands for both `a` and `an`, and `be` stand for all its forms: `am`, `is`, `was`, `been`, etc. Statistically, each of these 208 words should appear (in some form) at least once in every 10,000 words of random text.

a about after again against all also and another any around as ask at back be because become before begin between both but by call can case change child city close come consider could course day develop do down during each early end even eye face fact feel few find first follow for force form from general get give go good govern great group hand have he head help here high hold home house how however I if in increase interest into it just keep know large last late lead leave life like line little long look make man many may mean meet might more most move much must nation need never new no not now number of off old on once one only open or order other out over own part people person place plan play point possible present problem program public put real right run same say school see seem set she should show since small so some stand state still such system take tell than that the then there these they thing think this those through time to too turn under up use very want water way we well what when where which while who will with without word work world would write year you

If you take both of these lists, put them together, and eliminate all the duplicates, you'll get the following list of 498 words. This is probably a good working vocabulary for either an introductory ESOL course or a children's book designed to teach reading.

a about above across afraid after again against air all almost alone along also always am an and another answer any apple are arm around as ask at away back bad ball bank be bear beautiful because become bed been before begin behind being believe best better between big bird black blow blue body book both box boy bread bring brother brought build burn but buy by call came can care carry case cause change child children church city clear close cold color come company consider corn could country course cover cross cut dark day dead dear deep develop did die do does done door down draw dress drink drive drop during each ear early earth east eat egg end enough even ever every eye face fact fair fall family far fast father feel feet few field fill find fine fire first five floor flower fly follow food foot for force form found four fresh friend from front full garden gave general get girl give glad go God gold good got govern great green ground group grow had hair half hand happy hard has have he head hear heart heavy help her here high hill him himself his hold home hope horse hot house how however hundred I if in increase interest into is it its just keep kill kind king know land large last late laugh lay lead learn leave left let letter life light like line little live long look lost love low made make man many mark matter may me mean measure meet men might mile milk mind mine miss money month more morning most mother mountain move much must my name nation near need never new next night no north not nothing now number of off often old on once one only open or order other our out over own paper part pass pay people person picture piece place plain plan plant play please point poor possible present pretty problem program public put quick rain reach read ready real reason red remember rest rich ride right river road rock roll room round run said sail same save saw say school sea second see seem seen send sent serve set several shall she ship short should show side silver since sing sister sit six sleep small so soft soldier some something sometime soon sound south speak spring stand start state stay step still stone stop story street strong such summer sun sure sweet system table take talk tell ten than thank that the their them then there these they thing think this those though thought thousand three through till time tire to today together too top town train tree true try turn two under until up upon us use very visit wait walk wall want war warm was watch water way we week well went were what when where which while white who whole why wide will wind window winter wish with without woman wood word work world would write year yet you young your

One final list that I think should prove very useful in English education is the following 182 items, which are common to both lists. Keep in mind that these are only headwords, so derived forms could also be introduced in a very basic text.

I've taken the liberty of sorting these words into three basic categories based loosely on both traditional parts of speech and modern linguistic terminology. I've also changed the subject pronouns given (`I`, `he`, etc.) into object pronouns (`me`, `him`, etc.) since the object forms have emerged as the most basic citation forms in modern English.


Verbals:

  • ask
  • be
  • begin
  • call
  • can
  • change
  • come
  • could
  • do
  • feel
  • find
  • follow
  • get
  • give
  • go
  • have
  • help
  • hold
  • keep
  • know
  • lead
  • leave
  • like
  • look
  • make
  • may
  • mean
  • meet
  • might
  • move
  • must
  • need
  • play
  • present
  • put
  • run
  • say
  • see
  • seem
  • set
  • should
  • show
  • stand
  • take
  • tell
  • think
  • turn
  • use
  • want
  • will
  • work
  • would
  • write

Nominals:

  • a
  • all
  • another
  • any
  • back
  • both
  • case
  • child
  • city
  • course
  • day
  • each
  • end
  • eye
  • face
  • few
  • hand
  • head
  • her
  • him
  • home
  • house
  • it
  • line
  • man
  • many
  • me
  • more
  • most
  • much
  • no
  • number
  • one
  • part
  • people
  • place
  • point
  • school
  • some
  • that
  • the
  • them
  • these
  • thing
  • this
  • those
  • time
  • us
  • water
  • way
  • what
  • which
  • who
  • word
  • world
  • year
  • you

Adjuncts:

  • about
  • after
  • again
  • against
  • also
  • and
  • around
  • as
  • at
  • because
  • before
  • between
  • but
  • by
  • close
  • down
  • early
  • even
  • first
  • for
  • from
  • good
  • great
  • here
  • high
  • how
  • if
  • in
  • into
  • just
  • large
  • last
  • late
  • little
  • long
  • never
  • new
  • not
  • now
  • of
  • off
  • old
  • on
  • once
  • only
  • open
  • or
  • other
  • out
  • over
  • own
  • right
  • same
  • small
  • so
  • still
  • such
  • than
  • then
  • there
  • through
  • to
  • too
  • under
  • up
  • very
  • well
  • when
  • where
  • while
  • with
  • without

You can find some other word lists that may be of interest to you here, here, and here. If you're anything like me, you'll have a lot of fun digging around on your own. But probably you're nothing like me.

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2 Comments:

At February 5, 2010 5:34 AM , Blogger librarylady1 said...
Of course, we're like you. That's why we are reading your blog.
At February 5, 2010 12:18 PM , Blogger Jonesy said...
Well, it's good to hear that somebody actually is reading. Thanks!

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