The 1000 Most Common French Words - Read This First

Learning a language is not easy. But it is not nearly as complicated as people think. Either way, we have some good news! It takes more grit, or how good you are at grinding and staying on the learning path, than intellect to make it work.


The 1.000 most frequently used French words are what you're looking for if you're beginning to learn French. It's the best place to start to broaden your French vocabulary.


Set a goal to learn the top 1000 most important words first. These words are most common and will allow you to understand around 85% spoken French and approximately 80% written French. 


Therefore, It is a good idea to learn the 1000 most commonly used French words to speak French fast.


However, if you're a serious French learner, we recommend getting the 2500 most common French words in context, with IPA phonetic spelling of French words. It just gives you more vocab, so you'll get to 95% understanding instead. If you want full fluency, go for the top 10000 French words.


The Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Rule for Language Learning.


Remember the Pareto Principle. It is also known as the 80/20 Rule. To get 80% of your results, you'd be using only 20% of what you've learned. Find out what that 20% is, and focus on that. When learning vocabulary, stick to the most common words until you're at an advanced level. Here, you should require specialized vocabulary regarding your specific situation. 

It's more beneficial to be able to say the verbs "I want", and "I have", than to know low-frequency words such as "appliance", toothbrush, or "kidney beans". 


If you have to speak about lower-frequency vocabulary terms, it will make sense to learn relevant vocab using a themed word list. Do you work in a hotel? Learn vocabulary related to hotels. Do you spend a lot of time in hospitals? You'd likely want to learn some medical terminology. 


But, these kinds of words are not necessary for beginner French learners to know. Even the word "throat", around the 3500th most commonly used word in French, can be found in the beginning chapters of many traditional beginner French courses. No wonder why 98.5% of all people never reach their language goals. They start by learning the wrong input. 


Traditional language learning is outdated and stems from the wrong principles. The goal is to make sure that the student can handle themself in a broad range of situations. This concept is good in theory but useless in practice. You want to focus instead on words that you'll use over and over again. Don't waste time learning vocabulary you will (almost) never use. 


I remember learning vocabulary related to airports in the early chapters of my French lessons in high school. This is what is wrong with that: People tend to speak English there anyway, and how often do you spend time at an airport in your daily life? Same with going to the doctor's office. Usually, doctors are well educated and speak at least some English. Instead, I'd rather focus on learning words that you'll actually end up using a lot. 


Research has shown that, in daily life, repetitions of the same words and phrases are more common than using new words or phrases. There are many synonyms for the word "good", but you'll still hear it 90% of all the time. Focusing on learning vocabulary terms that provide the most significant results in the shortest amount of time would be a better choice.


Keep in mind the Pareto Principle and 80/20 Rule. 20% of all that you're learning is what will make up 80% of all your results.


Why is there a different list of 1000 French words most frequently used?


You might have noticed that several lists are listing the 1000 most common French words. Why do other lists exist, and why would you want to have different lists of the top 1000 French words, anyway? What's the difference between a good and bad list? Two possible answers are provided:


Reason 1: Every list is unique because each source text used will differ.


Written and spoken language differ from each other. If you're writing and reading, you'll encounter different words than the vocabulary you will hear when speaking or listening. It is an important fact to understand before you start learning French vocabulary using a frequency list. If the source text doesn't contain a mix of written and spoken language, I'd suggest looking for a more balanced list. It should include a balanced mix of source text based on listening, reading, speaking, and writing


Perhaps with an emphasis on listening, reading, and speaking, as those are most popular/relevant to learners. It is definitely worth looking for a list that includes both spoken and written French. You won't be making the most of your time spent learning if you have a not-so-great vocabulary list!.


Subtitles cover both writing and speaking. They are unique in this sense. That is why we base frequency lists on them. Subtitles have been shown to be the most effective way to create a frequency list that corresponds to written and spoken language.


Reason 2: The list wasn't cleaned properly, or was not cleaned up at all.


Here's an example: I will use the Wikipedia list. It is a French word frequency listing, which is based upon the Wikipedia corpus. It's a compilation of all Wikipedia text which a basic text analyzer has processed. There are many text analyzers that you can choose from, with different pricing and features. This Wikipedia lists every single word and ranks them according to the frequency they are used.


But there is a problem with this list.


Wikipedia's frequency table is just the raw data. These entries have not been properly cleaned up. The list contains names, proper nouns, verb conjugations, superlatives, random plurals, and superlatives. This raw data list is being promoted as a useful French frequency list for language learners. 


The words in this list are not lemmatized, as it's called in linguistic terms. Lemmatization refers to the process of restoring a word to its original form, or the lemma. The root, or dictionary form of the word, is called the lemma. Many conjugated words are to be found in the raw data list, instead of just the root word.


Language learners will find it more useful to have a reliable frequency list that is properly lemmatized. 


Beware of Pure Word Lists: Why You Need Sample Sentences 

A pure wordlist is not a good way to learn a language. It is definitely not the best way of learning French vocabulary.


You learned most of your first language from context. (Ok, then add in complete immersion and instant feedback by private tutors: your parents, teachers, and peers.)


That is why it is worth looking for a frequency list with sample sentences. Natural language learning happens in chunks, not by studying word by word from a wordlist. This "chunking" mimics natural language learning and will help you learn faster. Your brain needs to make connections in context for you to remember the vocabulary better. All our entries contain a French-English example sentence for this reason.


How long does it take to learn the top 1000 French phrases and words?


Let me now show you how long it takes to learn 85% daily French using very advanced mathematic principles ;).


  • You can reach 85% understanding if you learn only 30 words per day for 33 days.
  • If you learn at least 20 words per day, you can attain your goal within 50 days.
  • If you only learn ten words per week, you can reach your goal within 100 days.


What are the best ways to learn vocabulary?


These are just a few tips to help you learn faster.


  1. Spaced repetition. It's a good idea for vocabulary items to be revisited every so often. This principle is used in flashcards. This principle is also used in French audio courses such as Michel Thomas and Pimsleur. Paul Pimsleur did extensive research into memory hacking and spacing repetition. Based on his research, Pimsleur created the Pimsleur audio courses. Michel Thomas follows the same method, but he focuses more on useful dialogues, in my opinion.

  2. Set goals. Planning for failure is planning to fail. It is essential to set goals. Look at these examples to see how long it takes to learn the 1000 most common French words.

  3. Keep going. Don't let yourself or your students give up on learning languages. Join the 1.5% of people who reach their language goals. Research shows that 98.5% of all who begin to learn a language fail to realize it while using traditional language education methods. 


A Quickstart Guide to Learning a Language 


To learn conjugations of verbs, you can also use Pareto Principle. The Quickstudy Chart is an excellent French grammar cheat sheet. All the French vocabulary is covered in our French frequency dictionaries. The Quickstudy grammar sheets and our frequency dictionaries are a winning combination. This is a quick overview of how to learn a language quickly.


  1. Set your goal: e.g.: learn ten new French words per day
  2. Learn the most common grammar rules.
  3. The most common verb conjugations are first, then you can move on to irregular verb conjugations.
  4. Learn more vocabulary.



Conclusion: Learn French quickly with Word Lists


Focus on the 1000 most frequent French words. Use a reliable French frequency list. The list should be based on spoken and written French. Each entry in the top 1000 words list must include at least one French sentence sample. It will enable you to understand the context of the words and help your brain internalize them. It is an excellent way to learn any language. Set daily goals and remember them. It doesn't matter what happens: Just learn these few words!


Remember that while a year may seem like a long time to you, a day is just a day. You'll soon be fluent in French before you know it.



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