10 major verbs
If you recorded 24 hours of conversation between two native speakers, transcribed their speech, and then underlined every conjugated verb which appeared in the transcript, you would see that:
of the 100,000 words uttered, about 30,000 would be verbs – and
of those 30,000 verbs:
about 9,000 would be some form of the verb “to be”;
another 2,000 would be a derivative of the verb “to go”;
another 1,000 some form of the verb “to have”
and 500 of the verb “to do”.
In other words, 50% of all verb occurrences in the 24 hours of conversation between the two English speakers in question would be derived from the following verbs:
1. to be
2. to go
3. to have
4. to do
5. to want
6. to know
7. to make
8. to say
9. to tell
10. to see
Sometimes students ask questions such as about the difference between “to bother” and “to annoy”. Both verbs mean “disturbing” but there are slight shades of difference in some cases. There is not much difference between the two verbs, except perhaps slightly less usage of ‘to bother’ in British English vs. American English. One might typically use the verb “to annoy” once a week and the verb “to bother” once every month or two. In contrast, we could easily use some form of the verb “to be” six times per minute.
This means that a language student can improve his or her English more quickly by making sure (s)he is fluent using the verb “to be” in the present, past and future, and in the affirmative, negative and interrogative. Knowing the nuances between infrequently used vocabulary is a waste of time if you are not already totally agile with the ten verbs in the above list.
Adapted from: ‘Vaughan Review’ – with thanks.