Ogden’s Basic English

Charles Kay Ogden - creator of the

Charles Kay Ogden

“Basic English” is more a concept and a philosophy about the language, rather than a “level” of English.  It was developed by Charles Kay Ogden (1889 – 1957) as a means to better and more easily communicate and teach English as a foreign language.

I am interested in adding it here to GiveMeSomeEnglish!!! because of the sheer genius of it’s simplicity and for how it can be an incredible tool for teachers and an equally refreshing way for student’s to learn in a way that is not so overwhelming as I have seen time and time again in teaching English as a foreign language.

A good amount has been written about Ogden’s Basic English, so I don’t feel that I need to go into great detail here.  But, as I am committed to creating the best possible environment for learning (and teaching) English, I am providing the necessary tools to do so…  and I believe that adding Ogden’s Basic English is a necessary part of doing just that.

If you are interested in the history or other aspects of Ogden’s Basic English you can read the Wikipedia article here.  I am predominantly interested in what it is and what it can do for you… (and your students!!!)



A simplified subset of regular English

The word BASIC is (by some) thought to be an acronym that stands for

British . American . Scientific . International . Commercial

Made up of…

  • 850 core words – For everyday life
  • 150 additional words – as needed by each individual student
    • 100 words – for a specified field (as needed by each student)
    • 50 words – representing a subset of the above field
      • (total of a 1000-word base for each student)
  • 200 international words – already familiar to the student
  • approx. 1000 additional words – for general fields of: trade, economics and science.

Equaling a personal vocabulary of approx. 2000 words.


The “Grammar” of Basic English

Similar to “Standard” English, but the rules are meant to be much more simple, with much less in the way of exceptions

Not all meanings of each word are allowed
  • Plurals are formed by adding “s”, “es” or “ies” [respectively] to the end of the noun.
  • Two word endings (comparative and superlative) for adjectives… “er” and “est”
  • Two word endings (past and continuous) for verbs…  “ed” and “ing”
  • Forming adverbs from qualifiers is done by adding “ly”
  • Talking about amounts is done with “more” and “most” / [“less” and “least”]
  • Adjectives are made negative by adding “un”
  • Questions are formed with opposite word order [subject and auxiliary verb] and by adding “do”
  •  Operators and pronouns conjugate as normal [?]
  • Compound words are made from either: two nouns {shithead, asshole,} or a noun and a directive {up-chuck, down-spout}
  • Measures, numbers, money, days, months, years, clock time, and international words are in English form, e.g., “We each contributed $100 and between the 3 of us, we smoked a 1/2 lb. of weed and ate a 1/4 ounce of mushrooms at 4:20 on Saturday, the 20th of April, 2013 and it was tres bien!” 😀
  • Technical terms and other expressions take on their local form wherever and whenever necessary…  Capiche?


The Basic English Word List
(a.k.a. “the list of 850”)

This list is also available at Wiktionary, but I’ve taken the liberty of organizing the list into the different parts of speech and making some rather… logical additions.


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