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The English Language


Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the answers.


1 - How many words do you think there are in the English language?

a) 70,000    b) 170,000    c) 500,000    d) 2 million+


2 - The following English words come from other languages. Can you guess which language they are borrowed from?

a) Tea    b) Coffee    c) Casserole    d) Potato    e) Shampoo


3 - The majority of English words fall into a small number of types of words. These are called word classes. Name the word classes in this table. The first one has been done for you.

type of word word class example
1. A word which names 1)   noun petal
2. A word which describes 2) pretty
3. A word which describes an action 3) push
4. A word which adds information about verbs 4) smoothly
5. A word which connects parts of speech 5) and
6. A word which replaces a noun 6) I
7. A word which indicates relationships 7) before
8. Words which can be used before all common nouns 8) the


4 - The American English word 'zucchini' means what in Standard English English?

a) leek    b) courgette    c) radish    d) spring onion    e) yam


5 - After the Battle of Hastings in 1066 what language was spoken by the Royal Court and the ruling class?

a) Latin    b) German   c)  English   d) French   e) Swedish 


6 - Approximately how many languages are spoken in the world?

a) 1070      b) 1250     c)  2100    d) 2700     e) 3200


7 -  Middle English was used by which poet?

a) Hardy    b) Blake    c) Chaucer   d) Shakespeare   e) Milton  


8 - What are the official languages of Israel?

a) Hebrew and Arabic   b)  Hebrew and English   c) Arabic and English   d) Hebrew and Yiddish


9 - What percentage of the Internet is in English?

a) 55%     b) 69%    c) 86%    d) 92%    e) 95% 


10 - According to the U.S. Census, how many languages are spoken in the United States?

a) 457    b) 329   c) 275   d) 203   e) 162


(1)  ....  2 million!

All 2 million can be found at

Nobody can agree about the average vocabulary of an 'educated' native-speaker, but there are many opinions. Here is one suggestion made by the linguist, David Crystal.
Person Vocabulary
Shakespeare 30,000
Average 16 year old 14,000
A university graduate 25,000

A vast number of the 2 million words in the language, are associated with certain occupations or activities. Unless you are, for example, a dinosaur expert or a tattooist, you will never use the specialist words associated with these occupations. Most of us have a common core vocabulary and a variable range of specialist words, depending on our interests.


2     a) China (from the AMOY dialect)    b) Turkey    c) Greek    d) Spain    e) India

Borrowings are one of the commonest ways in which words enter the language.The English language is like a magpie, collecting and hoarding useful vocabulary to build up the biggest wordstock in the world. This process has gone on throughout history, but the media has made it so much easier in the 20th century.

3  - Word Classes

2          adjective
3          verb
4          adverb
5          conjunction
6          pronoun
7          preposition
8          articles


4 - zucchini = courgette

5 - French

6 - 2700

7 - Chaucer

8 - Hebrew and Arabic

9 - 86%

10 - 329