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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


My choice for the four words: Impeach George Bush now. It's even a sentence.
Steve Clark

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.

I'm surprised to find that "I" isn't in the top 20 written words. Maybe we aren't so egocentric after all.

Interesting that "no" should not be in the top 20 spoken words. We are a gregarious species I guess.

No ifs or buts about it!
yalecohen ) )

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

It seems he and yes are used more often that she and no. I wonder if this has any significance?
wodonnell1 at

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