In order to be functional in any language, it is important to be able to correctly use the most common words in that language. ​Knowing these words in English will allow you to understand and speak Standard American English well. In addition to knowing the meaning of each word and its usage in sentences, make sure you take the time to learn the correct pronunciation of each word, including word stress. And note that words often have multiple meanings.​ Make sure you’re familiar with the different definitions of each word.

If you are reading this blog, you probably already know English well. You may be functioning in English at a high level. Even so, there may be common words you are mispronouncing. A good way to improve your speech is by making sure you can correctly pronounce the words you use most frequently. To help you do this, I have some free resources I’d like to share with you.

  • New General Service List of Most Useful English Words
  • Oxford Learner’s Dictionary online

New General Service Word List

This is a list of the most useful words in spoken English. The approximately 2800 words on this list account for more than 92% of spoken English. I would recommend downloading and perhaps printing the list, so you can easily work with it. You can find a link to this free resource on this page. Click on +NGSL in the menu on the left side. I suggest using the last list, which organizes the words alphabetically. You might also find some of the other formats useful.

I want to encourage you to go through the New General Service Word List. Make sure you are familiar with each of the words on the list, including its pronunciation, paying particular attention to word stress. Since these are some of our highest frequency words, chances are you use them on a daily basis. Therefore, it’s really important you are correctly pronouncing them if you want to speak understandable English.

Oxford Learner’s Dictionary Online

It’s important to use a dictionary to check the pronunciation of words if you’re in doubt. This is the easiest way to get confirmation of correct pronunciation. You also may think you know a word, but if you check in the dictionary, you may find you have been pronouncing it incorrectly. The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary is my favorite online dictionary for pronunciation use. Click here to visit the OLD. I always prefer a learner’s dictionary to a regular one, even for very advanced English speakers. Learner’s dictionaries give a lot more useful information about words, and their definitions are generally easier to understand and their sample sentences use more typical usage of the word. Regular dictionaries often give such unusual sample sentences, and therefore, are not so helpful for non-native English speakers. The main reason I like the Oxford Dictionary is that you can set it to hear and see only American English. If you do this, you will not be confused by having different pronunciations in front of you at the same time. And this dictionary also lets you hear the pronunciation of all the related forms of the word, like –ed, -ing and –s endings.

Word Stress

Before using the dictionary, please learn how to use the pronunciation symbols. You will find this information in the “Other Links” section on the right side of the page, click on “pronunciation”. If you’re already familiar with the IPA, then this will be helpful for you. If not, don’t worry too much about the special symbols. What I want you to understand is the part about stress. Primary stress (strong stress) is marked with a ‘ before a syllable. If a word has a secondary stressed syllable, it will be marked with a , before the syllable.

One of the most important things to focus on for understandable pronunciation is word stress. It is more important than correctly pronouncing the sounds in words. If you are not familiar with this concept, please watch my free “Word Stress” video on Youtube. Just click here to see the video:

Are there any words on the New General Service List you are not familiar with? Which words on this list do you find difficult to pronounce? Please let me know in the comments section below. I am looking for more difficult words to feature in my videos.