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Number of Words by Level of English

Did you ever had that nasty feeling of not having the right word when speaking or writing (even in your native language)? I know it and hate it. That's the reason why I am trying hard to expand my vocabulary in the native language and a couple of foreign ones.

The more words we know the better we feel in colloquial communication, the more freely we read and write. But we must realize that there are two different types of vocabulary — passive for general comprehension and active for applied use. A huge passive vocabulary makes it possible to understand written and spoken language easily. Passive vocabulary adds to the words of our active vocabulary many others stored in the depth of our memory. They could hardly be retrieved without external impact. The role of such impact plays written or voiced text. We recognize words and understand (or sometimes guess) their meaning within phrases and sentences while listening or reading. This storage should be kept in a good condition but we must be aware that it would barely help us in speaking.

In order to be able to speak fluently, we need a rich active vocabulary. Active means here that we we can recall the words without any doubt or procrastination and actively use them in speaking and writing.

Now let's specify how many words do speakers of different levels possess. The table below displays the approximate numbers.

Level of English Number of Known Base Words
A1 500
A2 1,000
B1 2,000
B2 4,000
C1 8,000
C2 16,000+
You can add or deduct 20% of your test result because this is an average error of such calculations. The C2 level approximately matches the level of an educated native English speaker. More details about the number of words can be found here.

If you haven't taken the test yet, do it now and grade your vocabulary level.

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