Basic English

From ArticleWorld

Basic English was created in 1930 with the idea of presenting a simplified version of English using a basis of 850 words. Charles Kay Ogden, who created the language, maintained that it could be learnt in seven weeks as opposed to the seven years for English and seven months for Esperanto. It was supported by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt and was put forward as a tool for peace after the Second World War.

It has its critics who translate the dramatic phrase ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat’ as a somewhat less picturesque ‘blood, hard work, eyewash and body water.’ It is also considered by some to have been the inspiration for Newspeak in George Orwell’s “1984”.


There are ten rules of grammar some of which are that plurals be formed in the usual way and by adding –er or –ing to the 300 verbs they become nouns, by adding –ing or –ed, they become adjectives. Adjectives become negative with the prefix – un and become adverbs with the ending –ly. Two nouns or a noun and a direction word can be combined to form a new word.


The 850 basic words include 100 operation words such as come, go, such, tomorrow, yesterday; 400 general words including attempt, bite, country and play; 200 picture words such as ant, apple, knife, tongue and worm; 100 descriptive words and 50 opposites.

According to Ogden, these were all the core words necessary and could be used to form other words using the grammar rules. He did not include any words that could be formed using a few of the core words.