Most experts believe that the English language has about one million words. Difficult to determine and not easy to agree on, the problem rests in defining what represents a discrete “word”.
Besides word counting, for individuals there’s a distinction between receptive knowledge — referring to our passive vocabulary, and productive or active knowledge — words we use when speaking and writing. As a rule of thumb, our receptive vocabulary is at least twice the size of our productive vocabulary.
Studies show that the average English native speaker knows about 20,000 words with a university-educated person knowing around 40,000 words. When speaking and writing (emails, letters, notes etc.) this goes down to about 5,000 very common words that are used repeatedly.
Try this online to test to estimate your English vocabulary size!
Stories for Young Readers is a graded textbook series designed to extend students’ skills and interest in developing their ability to communicate in English. To learn more, visit Kinney Brothers Publishing or check out all the textbook downloads from Donald’s English Classroom.