There’s a new part of this website that you might find interesting. It’s This is kind of like Facebook, but it’s only for the website and intended for you to practice your English. Click here if you want to sign up. Please include a picture of yourself if possible when you set up your profile. If this is worth keeping, I’ll pay whatever the monthly amount is to keep it running.


This week we’ll make the transition from the Green Level to the Purple Level. Are you ready?

Hey, I need new students to send in photos of themselves for the Photos section for May 2012. I’m also interested in getting more pictures of students in action. If you have a picture of yourself that matches one of the words in the Purple Level, that would be great. You could become a part of the lesson!

I need more feedback on what to do next with the website. What would you like to see here? Let me know.

Here’s a test for the Green Level. See how you do. At the moment, there is only one test for you to take, but as you can see, it’s labeled "Test #1," so there are others that will follow.

If you don’t do well on this test, I recommend that you go back to Lesson One and work your way through all of the lessons in that level.

One thing my students really like is dictation. The way it works is this: I read a question to them and they write down exactly what I have said. Then I read the answer to that question. In total there are five questions and five answers. I’ve created thousands of dictation exercises over the years. Here are a few for you to practice. Remember to write the questions and the answers in your notebook.

The word of the day is "vary."

Practice your reading in the Green Level Reading Room. I wrote these reading exercises with the passive voice in mind. After you listen to your teacher read, you yourself can read and record the exercise. If you send it to me, I might listen to it. I honestly don’t listen to all the recordings that are emailed, but I do listen to most of them because it helps me understand in what particular areas of pronunciation students are having problems.

On the schedule for today is the Green Level Review. If you have finished all of the lessons in the Green Level, I’m confident you will do very well!

The word of the day is "catch."

Here’s a link to a new video for adjective clauses. If you received today’s email, you already know about this.

I’m going to try something different for Word of the Day. After you are finished reading it, you can record yourself and listen to the way your voice sounds when reading English. Compare what your reading to mine. (You don’t have to send it to me! The recorder is for you–not me.) The word of the day is "last." Some people have trouble pronouncing words that end in "st," so this might help.

The lesson for today is on "get" + the past participle.


Here’s a new video for the preposition "between."

When you want to know the name of something, you can ask…

What is that called?

This is the lesson for today.

This weekend I’ve been doing a lot of social networking and signing up for things that I don’t know how to use but would like to learn about. One is a site that is similar to Facebook. It’s called "ning." You can join by clicking on this link. This is just a trial period. If I think it’s a good way for students to communicate with one another and with me, I’ll keep it. You have to try new things, right?

I’ve also joined Pinterest as MynameisPaul. That’s my username. This is one of the fastest growing social networking sites on the internet right now. If you are part of Pinterest, please consider pinning my site. Thanks!

The lesson for today is on "(be) made." When you describe where or how something is created, you can use this. Click here for the lesson.

The word of the day is "group."

Certain words in English are absolutely necessary to understand in the passive voice. One of those words is "use." You can use it in the active voice or the passive voice:

  • A saw is used for cutting wood. (present tense, passive voice)
  • A carpenter uses a saw for cutting wood. (present tense, active voice)
  • The computer was used for several years. (past tense, passive voice)
  • We used this computer for several years. (past tense, active voice)
  • This bike hasn’t been used much. (present perfect tense, passive voice)
  • He hasn’t used this bike much. (present perfect tense, active voice)

I find it very difficult to talk about anything without using the word "use." Learn more here.


More review for you. I want you to look at how the verb "be" changes in various tenses with the passive voice. Click here. Isn’t that interesting?

The word of the day is "worn." Yesterday when teaching class, this word came up twice. I was surprised to learn that many of my students were not familiar with the use of "worn" as an adjective.


Did you receive yesterday’s email? If not, make sure you sign up for emailed lessons and exercises. I’m trying to create them now so that they show up on mobile devices.

Click here for today’s lesson.

The word of the day is "humor."

In Green Level Lesson Eighteen, you are asked to distinguish between the passive voice and the active voice. This is something that you may have learned to do after watching the two most recent videos about the passive and the active voice found on the homepage. Today I’d like you to try this exercise for practice.


Another causative verb that you need to learn about is "make." When you make someone do something, you use your influence or strength so that a person or a thing will do what you want.

  • I made the store give me my money back.
  • She made her daughter say she was sorry.
  • They’re making their children clean the house.

The use of this word is similar to the use of the words you studied yesterday, "get" and "have," but "make" is much stronger and has a different tone:

  • We had our car fixed for free.
  • We got the mechanic to fix our car for free.
  • We made the mechanic fix our car for free.

The last sentence using "make" sounds as if force was used against a person in order to complete some kind of an action. It doesn’t really sound very nice, but there may be situations when someone has to "make" someone else do something. I hope you recognize the difference. This lesson should help.

When someone else does work for you, it’s common to use "get" or "have" to explain the situation. This is also known as the causative form. Click here to take a look.

I’m trying something new with the Word of the Day page. The video you see there is kind of rough, but this is just an experiment. The quality will improve over time. The word of the day is "spit."

Green Level Lesson Fifteen shows you what gerunds look like when they’re in the passive voice. This might be kind of a confusing thing to understand if you don’t know what a gerund is.

When a gerund is in the passive voice, you’ll see the verb "be" in the gerund form, "being," and then the past participle follows it. (Don’t mistake this for the present continuous tense.) Here are some examples:

  • He’s afraid of being laid off from his job.
  • Being laid off is a difficult experience to go through.
  • She’s doesn’t like being told what to do.
  • The children enjoy being read to in class.

To learn more about gerunds in the passive voice, click here. There’s also a video on YouTube on this topic:

In Green Level Lesson Fourteen you can learn about infinitives in the passive voice.

The baby needs to be given a bath.

Do you see the infinitive in the sentence above? When an infinitive is in the passive voice, it looks like this:

to be + the past participle

You often hear infinitives in the passive voice after words like "want," "need, "like," "love," "hate," etc.

  • She likes to be held.
  • He hates to be told what to do.
  • The children love to be read to.
  • This song needs to be played in the key of C.

Here’s a link to a new video about changing from the passive voice to the active voice. When you learn about the passive voice, I think it’s a good thing to learn how to rewrite a sentence so that it’s active. English teachers often frown upon the use of the passive voice in student writing. So if your teacher ever makes a mark on your paper that says you used the passive voice, he or she is suggesting that you not use it for that particular sentence or question.

The lesson for today will help you understand how to form the passive voice in the past perfect tense. You can go to the lesson here.


Let me show you what the passive voice in the present perfect tense looks like by using the verb "tell."

I have been told
We have been told
You have been told
You have been told
He has been told
They have been told
She has been told
It has been told
  • The students have told me that the test has a mistake.
  • I have been told by the students that the test has a mistake.
  • The police have told you to move your car.
  • You have been told to move your car.
  • Maria has told him he needs to get a haircut.
  • He has been told that he needs to get a haircut.

Do you see the differences in the sentences above? If not, you should go to Green Level Lesson Twelve.

The word of the day is "ruin."

Today’s lesson is on the past continuous tense in the passive voice:

If you finished yesterday’s lesson and paid attention today, you should do well on this quiz.

The word of the day is "path." Are you on the right path?

Here’s a new exercise for Think in English: ceiling fan

When the present continuous tense is in the passive voice, the action is taking place now. The formula looks like this:

S + (be) + being + the past participle

The verb "be" changes depending on the subject.

  • Someone is being ticketed for speeding. (A police offer is ticketing someone. This action is happening now.)
  • Shhhh! Students are being tested.
  • Are you being helped?
  • Telly is being transferred to a new location.
  • Those noisy kids are being asked to leave the library.

All of the verbs above are in the present continuous tense. The activity is happening now. For some students this is confusing because they see the "ed" ending for the verb, but remember that the (main) verb is in the form of the past participle.

There’s a new video for the passive voice. This one shows you how to form questions in the present tense, the past tense, and the future tense. You can take a look at it here.

The word of the day is "rely."

If you haven’t completed yesterday’s lesson yet, look at that now, or look below at the blog entry for yesterday. When modal verbs are put into the past tense and are passive there are four parts:

modal verb + have + been + the past participle

  • The computer should have been repaired quickly, but it wasn’t.
  • He could have been hurt in that accident, but he wasn’t.
  • They might have been given more time, but they weren’t.
  • She may have been interested in the painting, but I’m not sure.

Have you been studying the Word of the Day? I hope so! This part of the website is refreshed every day with new words. I recommend that you bookmark it and go there daily.

In today’s lesson you’ll learn how to use the passive voice with modal verbs. This is not too difficult. Here’s the way it works:

modal verb + be + the past participle

If you aren’t sure what a modal verb is click here. Here are some sentences that use modal verbs with the passive voice:

  • The pizza will be delivered within half an hour.
  • Shari’s car can’t be fixed today.
  • At test may be given to the students.
  • This should be eaten with a fork.
  • The polar bears might not be saved.
  • It must be protected with a large fence.

Now I have some questions for you:

  • Who will deliver the pizza?
  • Who can’t fix Shari’s car?
  • Who may give the students a test?
  • What should you eat with a fork?
  • Who might save the polar bears?
  • Who must protect it with a fence?

Remember that the passive voice doesn’t always clearly express who or what is doing the action.

It’s also a good idea to remind you that the use of the passive voice is not always the best choice when making a sentence or a question, but as a student of the English language you have to learn about the passive voice in any form that if might take.

Happy Easter!

Today millions of kids across the United States are waking up to see what the Easter Bunny left for them. The Easter Bunny is kind of like Santa Claus. He comes in the very early morning while everyone is still asleep and hides baskets of candy inside or outside the house. When the children wake up in the morning, they try to find what the Easter Bunny has hidden.

Did you know that when you use "(be) supposed to," you are using the passive voice? This is such a common thing to hear in English, many speakers don’t think about it. Look at this question:

What are you supposed to do today?

This question assumes that someone expect you to do something, or you expect yourself to do something. It has the two important elements of the passive voice–the verb "be" and the word "supposed" is a past participle; however, it’s followed by an infinitive, which makes it different from other sentences and questions that form the passive voice. Here are some examples:

  • I’m supposed to be at work by 9:00. (present tense)
  • The event was supposed to take place here. (past tense)
  • They’re supposed to have a test today. (present tense)
  • Mary is supposed to make dinner. (present tense)
  • Weren’t you supposed to clean your room this morning? (past tense)
  • How are they supposed to complete all this work on time? (present tense)

This video will provide you with more help:


I made this video to help students with the last three days of lessons on the passive voice:

Today’s lesson is on the use of "get" when making the passive voice. It’s very common to replace the verb "be" with the verb "get," but you can’t do this with all verbs, and if you do, you have to be careful not to make mistakes with the present tense and the past tense. Let me show you an example:

  • She is paid on Friday. (present tense)
  • She gets paid on Friday. (present tense)
  • She isn’t paid every Friday. (present tense, negative)
  • She doesn’t get paid every Friday. (present tense, negative)

Do you notice the difference between the sentences that use "be" to make the passive voice and the sentences that use "get"? If not, look carefully! Click here to go to Lesson Six in the Green Level.

After learning how to use the passive voice in the present tense and the past tense, today you will learn how to use the passive voice in the future tense. The formula looks like this:

will + be + the past participle

No matter what the subject is, use "will" and then "be" and the past participle. That’s not too hard, is it? Let’s take the verb "pay," as an example because "pay" is often used in the passive voice.

simplepastpast participle
  • The employees will be paid on Friday.
  • Will I be paid tomorrow?
  • When will you be paid?
  • She’ll be paid when she delivers her artwork to the gallery.
  • Tony won’t be paid until next week. (negative)
  • We’ll be paid in cash.

While we’re studying the future passive, we might as well consider the use of the "going to" future as well. Remember that instead of "will," you can often substitute "(be) going to."

am / is / are + going to + be + the past participle

In this case, you must pay attention to the verb "be" because it changes according to the subject. Let’s take the set of sentences and questions above and rewrite them with this substitution:

  • The employees are going to be paid on Friday.
  • Am I going to be paid tomorrow?
  • When are you going to be paid?
  • She is going to be paid when she delivers her artwork to the gallery.
  • Tony isn’t going to be paid until next week. (negative)
  • We’re going to be paid in cash.

The word of the day is "still."

There’s a new Think in English exercise for "food processor."


The lesson for today shows how to form the passive voice in the past tense. The formula looks like this:

was or were + the past participle

Your choice of "was" or "were" depends on the subject. In the sentences below, let’s compare the past tense in the passive voice to the present tense in the passive voice. The only thing that is different in these pairs of sentences is the verb "be." The verb "be" indicates the verb tense:

  • These houses were built very quickly. (past tense)
  • These houses are built very quickly. (present tense)
  • Their work was finished before noon. (past tense)
  • Their work is finished before noon. (present tense)
  • I was examined by the doctor. (past tense)
  • I am examined by the doctor. (present tense)

There’s one more interesting thing that we can do with the sentences above. Let’s change them so that they are in the active voice. Do you know how to do that? In the first few sentences, it isn’t clear who is doing the action, so when converting them back into the active voice, use "they" as the subject:

  • They built these houses very quickly. (past tense)
  • They build these houses very quickly. (present tense)
  • They finished their work before noon. (past tense)
  • They finish their work before noon. (present tense)
  • The doctor examined me. (past tense)
  • The doctor examines me. (present tense)

Do you understand everything so far? If not, it might be necessary for you to go back to the Blue Level or the Red Level to review the formation of the present tense and the past tense.

The word of the day is "already."

There’s a new reading selection for the Red Level Reading Room: The plum trees in my backyard are in full bloom.

In Green Level Lesson Three, you will learn about using the passive voice in the present tense. Some students mistake the passive voice for the past tense because the main verb is in the form of the past participle. Let’s take, for example, the verb "make." Below you’ll see what "make" looks like in the simple form (the base form), the past tense, and as the past participle. Notice that the past tense form and the past participle look the same. This is true for many verbs that are irregular and it’s true for all of the verbs that are regular.

simplepastpast participle
  • These shoes are made by hand.
  • This house is made of wood.
  • This website is made for you.
  • I am made of flesh and bones.

Each of these sentences are in the present tense. The verb "be" indicates the verb tense (am, is, or are) and the past participle follows the verb "be." Click here to learn more about using the present tense in the passive voice.

The word of the day is "along."

This is a new video that explains how to use "bad" as an adverb. The interesting thing about this is that many Americans don’t use "badly," or they don’t use it at all because it’s kind of a confusing word.

Many of you use the passive voice without even realizing it. When asking, for instance, about the place and time when you came into this world, these two questions are in the passive voice:

  • Where were you born?
  • When were you born?

The verb "be" indicates the verb tense. The main verb is in the form of the past participle. You must always keep these two things in mind when you study the passive voice.

When you answer these questions, remember to use the verb "be" and the past participle "born."

simplepastpast participle
  • Where were you born?
  • I was born in Germany. (Not: I born in Germany.)
  • When were you born?
  • I was born in 1963. (Not: I born in 1963.)
  • Where was Martha born?
  • She was born in Colombia.
  • What year was she born?
  • She was born in 1976.
  • Where were they born?
  • They were born in Brazil.

Click here for Green Level Lesson Two to learn more.

The word of the day is "again."

Congratulations! You finished the first three levels of the website! Today we begin the passive voice. Almost all of the lessons in the Green Level will help you learn about this.

The word of the day is "use."

Today is April Fool’s Day. Do you observe this day in the country that you come from? In the United States, April Fool’s Day is a day on which people play tricks on each other or try to fool other people. Watch out. Someone might be trying to trick you right now.

Click here to go to March 2012.

There’s still time to catch up to the rest of the class!