The easiest answer I have is maybenot as many you you think.
Let’s look at some basic facts. The 10 most frequent words in English (the, be, to, of, and, a, in, that, have, I) permit you to read nearly a quarter of most texts. The first 100 takes you to 50%, the first 1000 to 72% and the first 2000 words 80%. But this is where the problem starts. To achieve 90% of a text you’ll need to know around 6000 words, 15,000 gets you to about 98% and over 43,000 are needed to approach the 99% mark.
Luckily, some clever people in New Zealand discovered a list of words that come up time and time again in academic texts. They called it the Academic Word List (AWL) and it contains just 570 words. Now if we add together the first 2000 words and the AWL…
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