Fun Facts about English

  1. The most common letter in English is “e”.
  2. The most common vowel in English is “e”, followed by “a”.
  3. The most common consonant in English is “r”, followed by “t”.
  4. Every syllable in English must have a vowel (sound). Not all syllables have consonants.
  5. Only two English words in current use end in “-gry”. They are “angry” and “hungry”.
  6. The word “bookkeeper” (along with its associate “bookkeeping”) is the only unhyphenated English word with three consecutive double letters. Other such words, like “sweet-toothed”, require a hyphen to be readily readable.
  7. The word “triskaidekaphobia” means “fear of Friday the 13th”. It also means “superstition about the number thirteen” in general.
  8. More English words begin with the letter “s” than with any other letter.
  9. preposition is always followed by a noun (ie noun, proper noun, pronoun, noun group, gerund).
  10. The word “uncopyrightable” is the longest English word in normal use that contains no letter more than once.
  11. A sentence that contains all 26 letters of the alphabet is called a “pangram”.
  12. The following sentence contains all 26 letters of the alphabet: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” This sentence is often used to test typewriters or keyboards.
  13. The only word in English that ends with the letters “-mt” is “dreamt” (which is a variant spelling of “dreamed”) – as well of course as “undreamt” 🙂
  14. A word formed by joining together parts of existing words is called a “blend” (or, less commonly, a “portmanteau word”). Many new words enter the English language in this way. Examples are “brunch” (breakfast + lunch); “motel” (motorcar + hotel); and “guesstimate” (guess + estimate). Note that blends are not the same as compounds or compound nouns, which form when two whole words join together, for example: website, blackboard, darkroom.
  15. The word “alphabet” comes from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha, bēta.
  16. The dot over the letter “i” and the letter “j” is called a “superscript dot”.
  17. In normal usage, the # symbol has several names, for example: hash, pound sign, number sign.
  18. In English, the @ symbol is usually called “the at sign” or “the at symbol”.
  19. If we place a comma before the word “and” at the end of a list, this is known as an “Oxford comma” or a “serial comma”. For example: “I drink coffee, tea, and wine.”
  20. Some words exist only in plural form, for example: glasses (spectacles), binoculars, scissors, shears, tongs, gallows, trousers, jeans, pants, pyjamas (but note that clothing words often become singular when we use them as modifiers, as in “trouser pocket”).
  21. The shortest complete sentence in English is the following. “I am.”
  22. The word “Checkmate” in chess comes from the Persian phrase “Shah Mat” meaning “the king is helpless”.
  23. We pronounce the combination “ough” in 9 different ways, as in the following sentence which contains them all: “A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed.”
  24. The longest English word without a true vowel (a, e, i, o or u) is “rhythm”.
  25. The only planet not named after a god is our own, Earth. The others are, in order from the Sun, Mercury, Venus, [Earth,] Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.
  26. There are only 4 English words in common use ending in “-dous”: hazardous, horrendous, stupendous, and tremendous.
  27. We can find 10 words in the 7-letter word “therein” without rearranging any of its letters: the, there, he, in, rein, her, here, ere, therein, herein.
  28. The following sentence contains 7 identical words in a row and still makes sense. “It is true for allthat that that that that that that refers to is not the same that that that that refers to.” (= It is true for all that, that that “that” which that “that” refers to is not the same “that” which that “that” refers to.)
    It is true for all that that that that that that that
    pronoun conjunction determiner noun relative pronoun determiner noun
    (adjective) “that” which (adjective) “that”
    refers to is not the same that that that that refers to.
    noun relative pronoun determiner noun
    “that” which (adjective) “that”

    A sentence with a similar pattern, which may help to unravel the above, is:
    It is true, despite everything you say, that this word which this word refers to is not the same word which this word refers to.
    Or, if you insist on being really correct:
    It is true, despite everything you say, that this word to which this word refers is not the same word to which this word refers.

  29. The “QWERTY keyboard” gains its name from the fact that its first 6 letter keys are Q, W, E, R, T and Y. On early typewriters the keys were arranged in such a way as to minimize the clashing of the mechanical rods that carried the letters.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

3 thoughts

  1. I don’t know where you get those informations, Janet, but they are very interesting. You may know that there is a collection of books about “languages and their facts” which compile that sort of facts by dozens. As a linguist l always enjoy reading them. l find some of these facts quite funny.

    1. Yes I love facts of any kind. There are quite a few of these lists floating around and there are also Pinterest boards devoted to them. My students love these kinds of facts when they start to get tired in a lesson. I am going to keep my eye out for the collection you mention 🙂

  2. Thank you, I always enjoy your posts about the English language. No. 28 is my favorite in this post. English is my second language, but as I have heard, if you dream in a language, then you can say that you are fluent. I try to be.

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