The word of the day is "resolution." Have you made any resolutions for the new year? This year I’m going to try to lose a little weight–maybe 20 pounds–and try to be more organized.

You’ll notice that there are two sets of weekly schedules on the homepage now. One is for beginning level students and the other is for intermediate level students or for those students who have completed the first four levels.

There’s a new Think in English exercise. Click here to take a look at it.

Did you get the email I sent out to everyone today? If not, make sure you sign up on the homepage. Email keeps students on task and provides new information about changes to the website.

There’s a new listening lab exercise for verbs in the present perfect tense in which the helping verb is contracted. This is a good exercise because sometimes it’s very hard to hear the contraction.

The word of the day is "adjust."

You have a test today! Click here to take the Green Level test. If you don’t do very well on it, I recommend that you repeat the first four levels of this online program: the Blue, Red, Yellow, and Green levels.

Beginning next week, the instruction on this website will provide guidance for two tracks: beginning learners of English and intermediate learners of English. The first three levels–Blue, Red, and Yellow–are designed for students who are new to English or need to review basic grammar. The Green, Purple, Orange, and Violet levels are intended for intermediate learners, and the rest of the website can be used by anyone, including advanced students.

The word of the day is "cliff." If you’ve been hearing the use of this word lately, it’s because the United States is about to go over a fiscal cliff if Congress doesn’t agree on how to raise taxes and cut federal spending.

 

To review what you have learned in the Green Level, click here. Tomorrow you can take a test; however, if you want to start on the test early, the link to it is found towards the bottom of this page.

The word of the day is "effect."

There’s a new listening exercise for verbs in the present perfect tense.

I use dictation exercises with my students all the time. This helps them to develop their listening skills. The way it works is this: I say something and then they write down on a piece of paper exactly what I have said. Everyone likes this exercise because it helps students realize how important it is to learn how to listen for individual words in English. Click here for the Green Level dictation exercises.

By the way, I’ve been getting a lot of emails from students lately asking how much it costs to use the website. Remember, the website is always free! There’s no cost, and there are no passwords. We try to make this as pleasant an experience as possible and we don’t want anyone to feel obligated in anyway; however, to those visitors who want to make a donation, you can click here. Donations help to keep the website free for people around the world who can’t afford to pay for online language instruction.

The word of the day is "lift."

Here’s a new listening exercise that will help you listen to someone tell the time.

After having completed all of the lessons in the Green Level, you can practice what you have learned in the Green Level Reading Room. If you haven’t finished all of the Green Level lessons yet, now is a good time to do that. There’s a test on Saturday.

The word of the day is "crust."

A student emailed me and asked for a listening exercise that included numbers used in everyday English, so here it is.

Click here to learn how to use "be called" when describing the names that are given to things and people.

The word of the day is "raise."

When asking about the materials used to make something, we often use the passive voice:

  • What is this made of ?
  • It’s made of _________. (material)
  • What’s this desk made of?
  • It’s made of wood.
  • What are these ornaments made of?
  • They’re made of glass.
  • What are your socks made of?
  • They’re made of cotton.

Click here for today’s lesson.

The word of the day is "cold." Now that winter has begun, some of us have many more months of cold weather ahead. Here in Minnesota it’s about 20 degrees, which isn’t bad for late December, but we know it will get much colder than that soon. Do you like cold weather? I love it!

trees covered with snow

Trees in a nearby park covered with snow.

Today’s lesson provides examples for "be used." If you follow this blog, you see these words together quite often. Remember that the verb "be" changes depending on the tense and, in some cases, the subject of the sentence or question:

  • The word "jolt" is used to describe a sudden movement.

  • Hammers are used to pound nails.
  • Has your cell phone ever been used to take pictures?
  • A computer can be used to communicate with people.
  • My old camera can’t be used anymore because it doesn’t work.
  • My car was used to haul some dirt and rocks.
  • I hope this website will be used by people who want to improve their English.

Click here to learn more.

The word of the day is "jolt."

Green Level Lesson Twenty shows how the verb "be" changes as it is used with various verb tenses in the passive voice. This is yet another way to review the use of the passive voice.

The word of the day is "knack."

There’s a new listening lab exercise for infinitives. Click here to take a listen.

Your lesson for today provides examples of sentences in various continuous tenses. The reason for this lesson is because verbs in some continuous tenses are sometimes mistaken by students as being passive, especially verbs that are in the present perfect continuous tense:

  • She has been seeing a doctor.
  • She has been seen by a doctor.

Do you know the difference between these two sentences?

The word of the day is "dairy."

In today’s lesson you practice identifying the use of the passive voice or the active voice. After you complete the lesson, there’s a quiz!

The word of the day is "qualify."

The verb"make" is another causative verb that has a meaning quite different from its use as a main verb. If you make someone do something, you force that person to do some kind of action, sometimes against his or her willingness to do it. Look at these examples:

  • The teacher made the students do extra work in class because they did so poorly on their tests.
  • The judge made the the young woman who was speeding do 100 hours of community service.
  • The sad situation made everyone cry.
  • Sometimes an onion makes you cry as you are cutting it.

Click here to learn more about using "make."

The word of the day is "yet."

There’s a new word of the day quiz. Click here for Quiz #4.

The lesson for today is on causative verbs, "get" and "have." It’s interesting that these two verbs can be used in so many different ways. Today’s lesson shows you yet one more way they are useful and important to understand. Look at the sentences in the table below:

subject get or have object past participle
They
got
their car
fixed
I
will get
the house
cleaned.
She
has
her nails
done
We
are having
our party
catered

Note the word order in each sentence. Following the subject, use "get" or "have," then the object that is acted upon, and then the main verb is in the form of the past participle. In each of these sentences, someone else does the work. These sentences are examples of the causative form or causative voice.

We can rewrite these sentences in the passive voice:

  • Their car got fixed. / Their car was fixed.
  • The house will get cleaned. / The house will be cleaned.
  • Her nails are done by a manicurist.
  • Our party is being catered.

Note that the use of "get" to form the passive voice does not always sound pleasing to the ears, so the last two examples don’t show its use.

The word of the day is "grief." It’s not an exaggeration to say that the entire country has been traumatized by the events of last Friday morning.

My heart goes out to all the families affected by the senseless act of violence that occurred yesterday in Connecticut. All Americans are grieving the loss of innocent children and their teachers. Once again we have to bear the consequences of living in a country that places such a high value on gun ownership. The word of the day is "tragedy."

Today’s lesson is on using gerunds in the passive voice. If you don’t know what a gerund is, it will help to review this Red Level lesson on gerunds first.

I’ve noticed over the years that I’ve been teaching English as a second language that many of my beginning and intermediate level students are stumped by passive infinitives. As you might recall from lessons in the Red Level, an infinitive can be used like a noun. It’s composed of the word "to" and then the simple form of a verb. Let’s use the verb "give" as an example:

simple past past participle
give
gave
given
  • Teachers are to give tests to students.
  • Tests are to be given to the students.
  • Men like to give flowers to women.
  • Women like to be given flowers.
  • The students need more time to finish their work.
  • The students need to be given more time to finish their work.
  • To be given the opportunity to work as a teacher is a great honor and a privilege.

Click here to learn more about passive infinitives.

The word of the day is "admire." It rhymes with "inspire," which was yesterday’s word of the day, and the "A" section needed more words.

Your lesson for today is on using the past perfect tense in the passive voice. If you have trouble with this, it might help to review the past perfect tense in the active voice and then go back to today’s lesson.

‘Tis the season to be inspired. The word of the day is "inspire."

Before you go to today’s lesson on using the present perfect tense in the passive voice, it might be a good idea to look first at Yellow Level Lesson Three when we studied the present perfect tense in the active voice. Then look at the differences in these sentences:

  • They have sold their car. (active voice)
  • Their car has been sold. (passive voice)
  • The police have shot the suspect. (active voice)
  • The suspect has been shot. (passive voice)
  • The company has sent the order. (active voice)
  • The order has been sent. (passive voice)

When the present perfect tense is put into the passive voice, it looks like this:

S + has or have + been + the past participle

Pay attention to the subject because that will determine whether or not you use "has" or "have." The verb "be" is in the form of a past participle because the tense is present perfect, but the main verb is also in the form of a past participle. To learn more, click here.

The word of the day is "date."

Your lesson for today is on verbs in the past continuous tense and in the passive voice. This is similar to yesterday’s lesson, but the verb "be" is either "was" or "were," depending on the subject:

S + was or were + being + the past participle

  • Last year Hugo was being treated for a serious heart condition. (A doctor was treating him.)
  • The work wasn’t being done on time, so the workers were replaced. (The workers weren’t doing their work properly.)
  • The courses were being taught by just one instructor last year.  (One instructor was teaching the courses.)

Click here to move on to Green Level Lesson Eleven.

The word of the day is "kind."

There’s a new exercise in the Listening Lab: Exercise 16.

When present continuous tense verbs are in the passive voice, the formula looks like this:

S + am, is, or are + being + the past participle

Some students find this to be difficult or confusing because it requires the speaker to use the verb "be" twice. The subject determines which form of "be" is used, then you have to use "being" because it’s continuous. The main verb is in the form of the past participle.

Let’s apply this to the verb "train," which is a regular verb. A person who is trained is given some kind of instruction or taught how to do something. It’s common to hear the verb "train" in the passive voice.

simple past past participle
train
trained
trained

The table below shows what the verb "train" looks like in the passive voice in the present continuous tense:

Singular Plural
I am being trained
We are being trained
You are being trained
You are being trained
He is being trained
She is being trained
They are being trained
It is being trained
  • Joe is being trained on a new machine today.
  • We are being trained to use this new software.
  • The students are being trained to use tablet computers in class.

To learn more, go to Green Level Lesson Ten.

The word of the day is "parent."

 

Today’s lesson shows you how to use modal verbs with main verbs to describe past situations in the passive voice. This might be a little confusing if you didn’t complete yesterday’s lesson.

There’s also a quiz at the end of the lesson.

Your lesson for today is on using modal verbs with the passive voice.

The word of the day is "ma’am." This is a good word to know if you live in the United States and work directly with customers in a hotel, a restaurant, a store, etc.

Today’s lesson is on the use of "be supposed to." This verb phrase is essentially passive, but I’m not sure if that’s the way most people think of it. We use "be supposed to" when there is some kind of expectation that comes from another person:

I’m supposed to meet Joe at 4:00.

In this case, Joe expects me to meet him at 4:00. The sentence could be written that way, but "be supposed to" is very frequently used to describe responsibilities and obligations. It sounds very natural and you should be using it if you aren’t already. Here are a few more examples:

  • It’s supposed to snow tonight. (Everyone expects it to snow because that prediction is part of the weather forecast.)
  • Mary is supposed to see her friends tonight. (Her friends expect her to meet them.)
  • I was supposed to go to a meeting, but I forgot about it. (Other people wondered where I was. They expected me to be there, but I didn’t show up. Whoops!)

Click here for Green Level Lesson Seven.

As you study the passive voice this month, you will discover that it’s possible to use the verb "get" in place of the verb "be." This form of substitution doesn’t always work, but it’s important to understand because it’s so common. Look at the sentences below:

  • Joe was hired for the position.
  • Joe got hired for the position.
  • Your glasses will be broken if you aren’t careful.
  • Your glasses will get broken if you aren’t careful.
  • The mail is delivered in the morning.
  • The mail gets delivered in the morning.

Learn more about using "get" in the passive voice by visiting Green Level Lesson Six.

The word of the day is "deny."

There are two new Listening Lab exercises. Click here to listen to verbs used in the past tense. Click here to listen to verbs used in questions in the past tense.

 

Green Level Lesson Five will help you with the future passive voice. To form it, the formula looks like this:

S + will + be + the past participle

  • A test will be given tomorrow. The teacher will give it.
  • Jim will be paid on Friday. His boss will pay him.
  • Our furnace will be checked later today. A service technician will check it.

To learn more about forming the future tense in the passive voice, click here.

The word of the day is "flat."

In today’s lesson, students learn about using the past tense in the passive voice. As I mentioned yesterday, the verb "be" indicates the verb tense:

  • This house was built in 1968.
  • The salespeople were sent to Boston for a sales meeting.
  • I wasn’t given enough time to finish the work.

Each of the sentences above uses the verb "be" in the past tense–was or were. The past participle is the main verb: built, sent, and given. If we rewrote these sentences in the passive voice, they would look like this:

  • Someone built this house in 1968.

  • The company sent the salespeople to Boston for a sales meeting.
  • My supervisor didn’t give me enough time to finish the work.

Do you understand the differences between these two sets of sentences? Click here to learn more about forming the past tense in the passive voice.

The word of the day is "space."

In Green Level Lesson Three, you’ll learn about the passive voice in the present tense. As you study the passive voice this month, pay close attention to the verb "be." This is what indicates the verb tense. Look at the sentences below:

  • Tests are given on Friday.

  • The children are picked up after school.
  • This pizza is made with mozzarella cheese.

All of these sentences are in the present tense. Can you find the verb "be"? The words "is" and "are" are the verb "be" in the present tense. The mistake that many students often make is to look at the past participle (given, picked up, made) and decide that a sentence is in the past tense. This is because the past participle and the past tense look similar or are the same. Don’t make this mistake. Click here for today’s lesson.

The word of the day is "deep."

Thanks to students who have sent me their photos recently. I’ll post them soon. It’s not too late for anyone who wants to be included in the class of December 2012 . Just email your photo and include your first name and the name of the country that you come from. The photos section of the website helps students feel like they are part of a learning community. Look at all of the people who have come here over the years.

One very common use for the passive voice is when describing birth. Where were you born? When were you born? These are two questions that will always be asked of you, and you should now how to answer them. Click here to go to Green Level Lesson Two.

Today we begin the Green Level. The first lesson is on the passive voice. The next twenty or so lessons are also focused on the passive voice. This is extremely important to understand if you want to master English. Here’s a new video I made about the passive voice yesterday:

 

The word of the day is "knowledge." If you follow the Word of the Day section regularly, you might want to try this quiz for the words featured in November.

Click here to go to November 2012.

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