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Name three of the four most frequently occurring words in English writing?




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Answer: the, of, and to

According to John Allen Paulos in The formula for 'success' ( The Guardian, Thursday July 22, 2004):

"In English, for example, the word the appears most frequently and is said to have rank order 1; the words of rank 2, 3, and 4 are of, and, and to, respectively.

Zipf's Law relates the frequency of a word to its rank order k and states that a word's frequency in a written text is proportional to 1/k^1; that is, inversely proportional to the first power of k. (Thus of occurs half as frequently as the, and a third as frequently as the - and synecdoche hardly at all.)"

Note: Top Twenty Written English Words (in order of most to least used): the of and to in a for was is that on at he with by be it an as his

Top Twenty Spoken English Words (in order of most to least used): the and I to of a you that in it is yes was this but on well he have for

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My choice for the four words: Impeach George Bush now. It's even a sentence.
Steve Clark
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I have a wonderful book on my shelf titled "A Russian Learner's Dictionary" which lists the 10,000 most used Russian words with their usages and translations into English.

It's a fantastic book for understanding the differences in language usage between Russian and English. I've been on the hunt for a similar book in English to no avail. If anyone knows of such a book, I'd love to explore this topic in depth.
cdt# #operamail.com
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I'm surprised to find that "I" isn't in the top 20 written words. Maybe we aren't so egocentric after all.
jffriesen**shaw.ca
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Interesting that "no" should not be in the top 20 spoken words. We are a gregarious species I guess.
henryj_&douglas.bc.ca
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No ifs or buts about it!
yalecohen ) )alumni.cmu.edu
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Note the absence of she/her, even they/their, from either list. Thank God, "like" does not yet appear on the spoken list.

[Mootguy: In Canadian spoken English "eh" clocks in at number 3.]
slundgren at warnerpacific.edu
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It seems he and yes are used more often that she and no. I wonder if this has any significance?
wodonnell1 at nc.rr.com
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