Macmillan Dictionary makes a clear distinction between high-frequency core vocabulary on the one hand and the less common words, which are mostly needed for reference, on the other. Although the English language has up to a million words, native speakers use just 7,500 words for 90% of what they speak or write. These words represent the core vocabulary of English, which everyone needs to be able to use with confidence. They appear in red in Macmillan Dictionary, along with a star rating. Three-star words are the most common 2,500 words in the language. Two-star words are the next most common, and one-star words are the next most common 2,500.

Red words are described in detail, with information provided not only about meaning but also about grammatical behaviour, word combinations (collocation), register (informal, literary etc.) and pragmatics (what the words say about the speaker’s attitude). These features are often illustrated with examples from our corpus to show typical contexts, collocations, and grammatical patterns. All this information is carefully selected and presented to help people to use the words accurately and appropriately.

The black words are primarily receptive. You need to know what they mean but might not need to reproduce them when speaking or writing. So these words have a simple definition to help you understand the meaning immediately.

Red Words & Stars pack

The Red Words and Stars pack explains what red words are and how they can be used. It also comes with classroom and self-study activities, including answer key. The collection also contains wordlists on technology, family and friends, study, hobbies and travel in the back of the PDF booklet.




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