I am looking for an online service which provides the frequency of a search phrase across all the literature in English that there is. Hopefully billions of lines of text. For example, if the phrase is "cat on a tin roof" then example output could be found 725,819 times. And then a list of documents where it is used as the outcome.

The frequency value is useful for me when writing as I could use phrases which are more popular and in many cases can see examples of popular usage. I know that such a tool exists as it was used by a former colleague who was writing a PhD thesis. But I do not recall the name of the online service.

  • 3
    You mean ngrams?
    – alphabet
    Aug 15, 2023 at 2:22
  • I know Ngrams, and probably the said tool uses that under the hood, but I am looking for a service which supports me in writing. Suppose I want to see the usage of "This painting is not good" across all the text and then based on its popularity I would use that sentence in my work. If the sentence I construct is not correct, it is likely to be used less often. Google Ngrams does not do this, to the best of my knowledge.
    – kosmos
    Aug 15, 2023 at 2:28
  • This belongs on meta.
    – Xanne
    Aug 15, 2023 at 7:52
  • 2
    Have you seen our list of corpora?
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Aug 15, 2023 at 9:11
  • I think your approach is flawed. If the corpus is of spoken English, it won't be suitable for expository prose much of the time; and if it is of written texts, unless you have a way of filtering by genre, the register could be inappropriate for the text you are writing. There's really no substitute for reading and learning.
    – TimR
    Aug 15, 2023 at 11:21
  • 1
    Unfortunately, even in a corpus of the entire searchable internet, you'll get very few hits even for grammatical utterances that are long or very specific. For example, the 7-gram "We did go to the shore but..." returns no hits even though it's perfectly grammatical. Corpus research gets around this restriction somewhat by using advanced search, such as a search for PRON DO followed by but (possible in COCA if it doesn't time out), but knowing what to search for and how to interpret the results is its own area of expertise.
    – Laurel Mod
    Aug 15, 2023 at 12:56
  • @TimR and Laurel, You are right. But I am interested in technical writing and most of the sentences I use would have a high probability of being already used. I agree with what you say, but I could then search for "go to the shore" which will have higher hits. As a learner, I am not looking for just grammatical correctness, there are other tools for that. I want to write text which is understood with little effort and goes easy on the reader.
    – kosmos
    Aug 16, 2023 at 0:36
  • 1
    @kosmos: You seem to have a good command of the language already, so that future acquisition should be swift. I don't know of a corpus of technical documents in any case. But you could type a phrase into Google and use the "Books" filter.
    – TimR
    Aug 16, 2023 at 10:51


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