You know more words than I do

You know more words than I do. A lot more, if your word count is for a non-inflected language, or for a language much less inflected than Russian.

Out of curiosity I enumerated all the words in all their forms that I could derive from a single imperfective Russian verb like “кидать” (to throw, to toss). Counting the present and past tense forms for all persons, the gerund, all the participles, and all the declined forms of the participles, I got 59 words from one little infinitive! I may have made some errors, but still…

So if I know the grammar I’ll be able to recognize and use all 59 of those words as soon as I know the infinitive. But really, do I suddenly know 59 distinct new words? I don’t think so, even though that’s how Lingq will count as I encounter them. On the other hand, it probably has to be more than a single word – a beginner who learns “кадаю” may not know or recognize “каданными” for a long while.

If I’m not making an error of omission, the most that I think I could boast from a regular imperfective verb is 6 words:

  1. The present and past tenses of the verb for all persons and number.
    2-5. The present and past, active and passive, participles in all genders and cases.
  2. The gerund.

And that might be generous.

I recognize the enormous complexities it would take for Lingq to count like this, compounded by irregular constructions, and multiplied by all the other languages with their own grammar rules and exceptions. It’s just not practical.

I also recognize that the known word count serves a useful, if imprecise, purpose in metering one’s progress. I’m constantly opening lessons with tons of blue words, which can be frustrating. Without that incrementing counter to show that I am indeed making some sort of progress I might feel like I’m going nowhere. But you just can’t compare a Russian word count to a Chinese word count.

That said, I have a question. Are Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced levels in different languages determined by the same word counts, or by counts that are specific to the language? The question may be moot – those levels probably serve no other purpose than the word counts themselves, simply to mark progress of some sort in a given language.


Yes, LingQ uses different word counts for different languages in determining your various levels because of exactly the reason you just outlined. There is a page on here somewhere that shows you what the different word counts are for each language.

I’m not sure about those numbers. It depends on what we count – lexemes or all word forms.

Here’s my rough estimate:

Let’s take first 5000 words (lexemes) from this frequency list:���������%20������%20����

We get 2279 nouns, 1245 verbs, 791 adjectives + other unchanging parts of speech.

Nouns have 12 derivations (6 cases, singular/plural); adjectives – 24 (6 cases for 3 genders in the singular form + 6 cases in the plural, excluding the superlative and short forms); verbs – 73 (!!) (verb itself + case forms of present/past/passive participles in the singular/plural form).

So, in total, we have: 227912 + 124573 + 791*24 = 137217 word forms for 5000 lexemes. Roughly, of course.


кидать has 73 derivations: кидать


Yeah, the definition of ‘word’ is a slippery one and LingQ’s definition certainly doesn’t work well for many languages. But I doubt, even with an advanced system, they could come by a definition which would have any real value.

My word count is low, but look at how much reading and listening I’ve done!

Что это такое? Quantum Electro Dynamics?


Those Romans apparently didn’t have lower case. :wink: Literally, “What was to be shown”. Colloquially, “So, there you have it.”

Explained in detail at Q.E.D. - Wikipedia.

Or much more succinctly at Urban Dictionary: QED.

Everyone will use his own criteria for moving a word to known, so comparison of counts even among learners of the same language is suspect. Read, listen, learn, and enjoy. Your number can help lend a sense of progress to your effort, but there’s little sense in “mine is bigger than yours” comparisons.

Yep exactly. BTW, I hope this wasn’t interpreted as a “my word count is better than yours” / “my daddy can beat up your daddy” remark. :stuck_out_tongue: Just agreeing that the word counter is subjective to each person.

I have been thinking about the same subject. I realise that I don’t actually “know” 3500 Russian words, which is why when describing my progress to myself I say that I “recognise” that many words, in their various forms. Still, I get a thrill out of seeing my word recognition count going up, even if I am fooling myself! I am sure that I do actually “know” some Russian words out of that lot!

Of course, the calculation of known words is here very rough, especially for the languages with a lot of flections like Russian.
However, we are here not for counting the words, but for mastering our new languages.
So just go ahead by reading and listening and not pay too much attention how many words shows this ‘counter’.