Posted by: Michel Baker | July 29, 2010

Which Verb Form Should I Target First?

As a Spanish teacher, I have held a copy of Mark Davies’ A Frequency Dictionary of Spanish: Core Vocabulary for Learners (see image for a while, in anticipation of the day when our District edits its targeted word list.  That day is finally near, and I have been corresponding this week via email with Dr. Davies for further details.

Davies’ dictionary includes “the 5,000 most frequently used words in [Spanish] (Davies: back cover).”   They are listed in order from the highest in frequency to the lowest, and Blaine Ray adapts the top 100 into English on p. 274-275 of the Green Book.  All verbs are listed in the book by infinitive, which represent the lemma, or “– the total frequency for all forms of a verb (or noun, or adjective).  For example, ‘cantar’ represents the total frequency of cantan, cantaremos, cantaron, etc. (Davies: personal communication).”  Dr. Davies speculates that most frequency dictionaries list verbs in this manner because it saves space, and they are “semantically oriented (Davies: personal communication).”  This same kind of dictionary is also available at Amazon for English, French, German and many other languages.

But for Spanish and English, there is more!!  Online at, Dr. Davies also provides Spanish teachers with a multi-faceted tool that lists all of the forms of a verb in order, from highest to lowest in frequency!  A sister site is available for English at  

Here is how:

1.  Click on

2.  Type in any infinitive such as [tener] into the search field.  Be sure to include the square bracket at the beginning and end of the word!

3.  In the first section’s drop-down box, click “oral.”

4.  Click “Search,” and you will be given the list!  The first verb form listed is the one that is the highest in frequency!

Dr. Davies encourages everyone to take the “Five Minute Tour” at the bottom, right hand side of the screen, which describes how to use the entire site.  It explains that with this tool, you can also compare word usage across several centuries or even words that occur within several different registers, including spoken, fiction, newspaper and academic.  

Sites such as these are both fascinating and comprehensive tools that will serve TPRSers and linguists alike for many years to come.  Finally, I feel like I don’t need to “torture myself” over which verb form to target first…I can target the one that has the highest frequency!

You can read more about the work of Dr. Mark Davies at


  1. Thanks so much for posting this–I’m editing our Spanish 2 word list in anticipation of hiring a new teacher for this year and have used this several times today to change forms to higher-frequency ones!

  2. This is really helpful! Thanks for posting it and everything else.

    • Thanks Michele! And thanks Thomas for pointing this out on your blog too.

  3. […] Thomas Young, who teaches Spanish, blogged about Frequency words, which led me to Michele Baker’s blog, who also teaches Spanish but she conveniently included a link to COCA’s Word Frequency […]

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