According to the Ethnologue, there are almost 1 billion speakers of English as a first or second language. English is spoken as a first or a second language in a large number of countries, with the largest number of native speakers being in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Ireland; there are also large populations in India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Southern Africa. It "has more non-native speakers than any other language, is more widely dispersed around the world and is used for more purposes than any other language". Its large number of speakers, plus its worldwide presence, have made English a common language ("lingua franca") "of the airlines, of the sea and shipping, of computer technology, of science and indeed of (global) communication generally".
Modern English evolved from Early Modern English which was used from the beginning of the Tudor period until the Interregnum and Restoration in England. The works of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible are considered to be in Modern English, or more specifically, are referred to as using Early Modern English or Elizabethan English. By the late 18th century the British Empire had facilitated the spread of Modern English through its colonies and geopolitical dominance. Commerce, science and technology, diplomacy, art, and formal education all contributed to English becoming the first truly global language. Modern English also facilitated worldwide international communication. English was adopted in North America, India, parts of Africa, Australia, and many other regions. In the post-colonial period, some of the newly created nations that had multiple indigenous languages opted to continue using Modern English as the official language to avoid the political difficulties inherent in promoting any one indigenous language above the others.