When I first started teaching English 20 years ago, I realized how important it was for someone living in the United States to learn English quickly. Many arrived for economic reasons, and most of my students had family members to support, here in the United States and back in the countries from which they came. So over the years, I’ve developed a lot of ideas about how to make it easier for people to learn English. One idea is that there’s a core group of verbs that are necessary to learn for conversation, and if a student learns these verbs first, he or she will find it easier to speak English. Here’s the list of verbs. Of course, there are other important verbs to learn, but for someone learning English for the first time, this is a good start.

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Did you receive the email I sent out this morning? If not, make sure you sign up to receive email from me on the homepage.

There’s a new section for the website: Classroom Verbs. I put this together because a student asked me to make some pronunciation videos for "ask" and "say." This might be useful for students who are about ready to take an English class. The audio tracks should help you with your pronunciation. You can listen to them again and again.

Don’t forget about tonight’s webinar. This is a good opportunity for you to communicate directly with your teacher.

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Today’s lesson shows you the difference between the active voice in the present perfect continuous tense and the passive voice in the present perfect tense. They look very similar:

He has been seeing a doctor. (active)

He has been seen by the doctor. (passive)

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It’s been growing very quickly. (active)

It’s been grown without any chemicals. (passive)

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They’ve been showing some new products. (active)

They’ve been shown some new products. (passive)

Do you understand the difference between sentences that are active and sentences that are passive? If not, Green Level Lesson Nineteen might help.

 

This week we will finish working with the passive voice. If you have finished the first four levels of the website, congratulations! See how well you do on the quizzes for those levels. If you haven’t taken the quizzes yet, they will will help you determine your understanding of English grammar.

Starting next month in May we go on to study common verbs used in English. Most of these are irregular verbs, and they’re very important to know how to use because they’re commonly found in conversation.

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I’m working on a new section for the website: classroom verbs. The first one is for the verb "ask." Do you think this will be helpful for beginning and intermediate learners of English?

Thanks to everyone who has sent in photos of themselves to the website. It really helps to develop a sense of community for LearnAmericanEnglishOnline.com, and it gives me an idea of who comes here. While I’m not always good with names, I never forget a face, so if I see you someday–anywhere in the world–I’ll know who you are!

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There’s a new webinar scheduled for next Wednesday, April 28 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sign up here.

The word "make" can be used in a way that is similar to what you studied yesterday in Lesson Sixteen. However, as a causative verb "make" feels like it has more strength than "get" or "have."

I made my kids clean up their room.

I’m in a position of authority, and I can forcefully influence behavior, so the use of "make" is a good choice in the sentence above.

The police officer made the man stop his car.

A police officer uses his authority over people who break the law, so in this instance, "make" is also a good choice.

"Make" can be used with modal verbs and most verb tenses:

You can’t make me do that.

What will make him stop gambling?

Someone should make that guy shut up.

I couldn’t make the water shut off.

Click here for more examples.

 

Today’s lesson is on the causative form. This is kind of a confusing thing to learn, so pay attention to the differences in the sentences below and then go to Lesson Sixteen in the Green Level:

  • I got my car fixed last week.
  • I got a mechanic to fix my car last week.
  • I had my car fixed last week.
  • I had someone fix my car last week.

Can you see any differences in the sentences above? What are they? Notice that your choices for the verb "fix" are determined by the use of either "get" or "have" and then the use of either a thing or a person after those verbs.

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Today is Earth Day. What do you do in your daily life to help protect the Earth and it’s inhabitants?

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Today’s lesson is on passive gerunds. To make gerunds passive, use the word "being" followed by the past participle:

being + past participle

She’s tired of being insulted.

They like being emailed by the teacher.

I hate being called late at night.

Don’t confuse passive gerunds with the present continuous tense in the passive voice which uses the verb "be," then "being," then the past participle:

(be) + being + the past participle

She’s being insulted.

They’re being emailed by the teacher once or twice a month.

I‘m being called on my cellphone.

Do you see the difference? If not, go to the lesson to see more examples and a video.

Today’s lesson is on infinitives in the passive voice. An infinitive uses the word "to" and then the simple form of a verb. In the case of an infinitive, the simple form of the verb is always "be" and then the past participle. Let’s change some sentences so that they use passive infinitives.

He wants his mechanic to fix his car.

He wants his car to be fixed.

I need someone to help me.

I need to be helped.

The dog is begging his owner to feed him.

The dog is begging to be fed.

The President asked the Congress to complete its work soon.

The President asked for the work to be completed soon.

Tomorrow you’ll learn how gerunds are used in the passive voice. It’s good to study gerunds and infinitives together because they share some similarities.

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Today’s lesson is on the past perfect passive voice. Remember that the verb "be" determines the tense in the passive voice, so to make the past perfect, use "had been" and then the main verb in the form of the past participle:

had + been + the past participle

  • Arrangements for a hotel had been made before they arrived.
  • After a loan had been obtained, they started their business.
  • She hadn’t been asked out on a date in a very long time.

The past perfect indicates an action or situation takes place before something else happens in the past. You might want to review the past perfect tense in the Yellow Level if you are confused.

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It’s only mid-April and my plum trees are already in full bloom. They’re supposed to flower in May, but everything seems to be blossoming early this year in Minnesota. The flower buds on my apple trees are also starting to emerge, so I should know soon about how many apples might be harvested in the fall.

Temperatures this April have been ten to twenty degrees above average, which is nice because it’s easier to get things done in the garden, but it’s a little unusual.

 bloom: leaves and flowers come out in spring.

  • The trees are blooming. ("bloom" in this sentence is a verb.)
  • The trees are in full bloom. ("bloom" in this sentence is a noun. The word "bloom" can be used for flowers or leaves.)

 blossom: the emergence of a flower.

  • The trees are blossoming. ("blossom" in this sentence is a verb.)
  • The blossoms on a plum tree are white. ("blossom" in this sentence is a noun. The word "blossom" is used for flowers.)

 bud: the start of a flower or a leaf.

  • The trees are budding out. ("bud" in this sentence is a verb.)
  • The trees have a lot of flower buds on them. ("bud" in this sentence is a noun. You can use "bud" for flowers or leaves.)

The next webinar will be held on Wednesday, April 21. You can sign up for it here. Webinars are a good opportunity for you to work with your teacher online, and they’re always free.

The present perfect tense in the passive voice looks like this:

have
been
the past participle

has

have

been

change

put

used

The verb "have" changes depending on the subject. Then use "been" followed by the past participle.

My taxes have been paid.

The washing machine hasn’t been delivered yet.

The children haven’t been given anything to eat.

Has the problem been discussed?

Have the dishes been washed?

Has the computer been fixed?

Just remember, you’re always going to use "has been" or "have been" and then the past participle. You can learn more by clicking on this page, and you can take a quiz by clicking here.

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The past continuous tense in the passive voice is similar to the present continuous tense in the passive voice:

(be)
being
the past participle

was

were

being

change

put

used

The verb "be" changes depending on the subject, followed by "being" and the past participle. The past continuous tense is especially useful in describing some kind of action that is no longer true:

  • Her oil wasn’t being changed regularly. That’s why she has problems with her car now.
  • The books were being put back in the wrong location until the teacher told the students where to put them.
  • Too much paper was being used by the company, so they decided to do their work electronically.

Here’s a lesson to help you with the past continuous tense in the passive voice.

This is a quiz you can take if you have finished Lessons Ten and Eleven in the Green Level.

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Your lesson for today is on the the present continuous tense in the passive voice. It looks like this:

(be)
being
the past participle

am

is

are

being

fined

fixed

seen

Your choice of the verb "be" depends on the subject. Choose either "am," "is," or "are." Then you use "being," which might sound strange, but it’s okay. Then use the past participle. When the present continuous tense is used in the passive voice, the action is happening now or in the future.

  • I’m being fined $200 for parking violations.
  • Her car is being fixed today.
  • Three patients are being seen by the doctor this afternoon.

You can learn more in this Green Level lesson.

If you’re having trouble understanding the passive voice, I can help you during tonight’s webinar.

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Did you receive today’s email? If not, sign up on the home page.

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Today and tomorrow we will study the use of modal verbs in the passive voice. Here’s the formula for using modal verbs to express situations in the present and the future:

modal verb + be + past participle

Use the verb "be" or sometimes "get" after the modal verb and then the past participle.

modal verb
be
past participle

can

could

might

should

be

or

(sometimes) get

eaten

given

seen

moved

  • Cereal can be eaten with or without milk.
  • He could be given a shot by the doctor.
  • This movie might get seen by people all over the world.
  • This table should be moved to another part of the room.

Be careful not to confuse modal verbs in the passive voice with modal verbs that are in a continuous tense. The main verb looks different but when spoken quickly, sentences like these might sound the same:

The teacher will be giving a test today.

The test will be given by the teacher.

She should be cleaning her house today.

Her house should be cleaned today.

For more practice with modal verbs in the passive voice, go to this Green Level lesson.

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If you want to learn English, it’s a good idea to become familiar with American and British writers and poets. In honor of spring, here’s a well-known poem by an American poet:

Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

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I’m supposed to get a big truckload of dirt this morning, so I’ll update the blog later today. If you follow this blog, you know your teacher likes to garden, and springtime is when I get my gardens ready for planting.

In the meantime, read yesterday’s blog about "(be)" supposed to."

What are you supposed to do today? Is there anything that you’re supposed to do? In spoken English, "(be) supposed to" is extremely common. If you’re not using it, you should start. We use this to say that somoeone expects a person to do something, or there is an expectation of some sort that is well known. It’s only used in the present tense and the past tense, so the verb "be" changes to am, is, are, was, or were followed by "supposed to" and the the simple form of the verb. Here are some sentences demonstrating "(be)" supposed to" in the present tense:

  • I’m supposed to meet my friend at the airport. (He expects me to be there.
  • You’re supposed to finish Lesson Seven today. (The teacher expects you to do it!)
  • He’s supposed to put his toys away. (His mother told him to do that.)
  • She’s supposed to see the doctor tomorrow. (She has an appointment and the doctor expects her to be there.)
  • It’s supposed to be a nice day today. (The weather forecast for today calls for 70 degrees and sunny skies)
  • We’re supposed to be at our meeting by 2:00 p.m. (People are expecting us there.)
  • The teachers are supposed to help their students. (That’s their job. Society expects them to do it.)

When you use "(be) supposed to in the past tense, it often means that something didn’t happen, or a mistake was made:

  • She was supposed to do the dishes. (She didn’t wash the dishes.)
  • He wasn’t supposed to leave the house. (His parents didn’t want him to leave, but he did.)
  • You were supposed to see the dentist today. (You missed your appointment!)
  • There weren’t supposed to put those box there. (They put the boxes in the wrong place.)

For more practice with "(be) supposed to," go to Lesson Seven in the Green Level.

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There’s a new page for the Green Level reading section. Click here.

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When you study the passive voice, it’s extremely important to learn how the verb "get" is used to replace the verb "be." Look at these two sentences:

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Rome didn’t get built in a day.

A student of English will see a big difference between these two sentences, but a native speaker doesn’t pay as much attention because they both sound okay. As you can see, these sentences are in the past tense and they’re both negative; however, when using the verb "get," it’s necessary to add "did" in the second sentence to help make the negative. If you choose to use the verb "get" when forming the passive voice, make sure you understand how to make questions and negatives in the present and past tense.

Can you change the verb from "be" to "get" in these sentences and questions?

  1. The house is cleaned on the weekend.
  2. The house isn’t cleaned during the week.
  3. Is this cooked in the oven?
  4. Were the assignments corrected by the teacher?
  5. The boy was sent home.

Remember that the verb "get" can’t always substitute for "be."

She was born in Brazil.

Don’t change this to…She got born in Brazil.

Also, don’t try to use "get" in place of sentences that are continuous:

The class is being held in Room 207. (You can’t use "get" here.)

Here are the answers for the above sentences and questions:

  1. The house gets cleaned on the weekend.
  2. The house doesn’t get cleaned during the week.
  3. Does this get cooked in the oven?
  4. Did the assignments get corrected by the teacher?
  5. The boy got sent home.

Confused? You should go to Lesson Six in the Green Level.

Here’s a quiz if you think you already know how to do change "be" to "get."

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Learning English isn’t easy. It requires a lot of work, determination, and time. How much time does it take? That depends on the person who is studying. The more education a person has had, the less difficult it is to learn just about anything because an educated person has the necessary skills to learn new things. On the other hand, a person who didn’t attend school regularly as a child or stopped attending school completely before the age of 13 will probably have to make up for the time that was lost.

This is not to say that it’s impossible to get a good education or learn English without having gone to a school. It is certainly possible to learn how to read and write at home under the supervision of a parent or an adult. Some children in the United States are home-schooled (2-3%) and never see the inside of a regular classroom. In fact, one of the greatest presidents in American history, Abraham Lincoln, was self-educated and taught himself how to become a lawyer. Still, the odds of an average person succeeding in any subject are increased with time spent at school.

Learning English is also quite difficult for people whose alphabet (system for recording language) and language structure are completely differerent from English. If your first language is Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, or Arabic, you’re going to have to work harder than someone whose first language is Spanish, French, or German because those languages are similar to English in their vocabulary and sentence structure. (In fact, you might benefit from studying one of those three languages if you are really struggling with English.)

My website is designed for people who know little or no English. Perhaps some visitors here have studied English in the past, or they have learned it at work, but they might not have a good knowledge of the fundamentals. Even intermediate and some advanced learners of English will benefit from working through the website by starting on the Blue Level and then working through all seven levels in order: Blue, Red, Yellow, Green, Purple, Orange, and Violet. The levels that are absolutely essential to work on are the first four.

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Click on the link for today’s lesson on the future passive voice.

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Today you’ll learn how to use the passive voice in the past tense.

The past passive uses either "was" or "were" and the past participle. Notice that with the present and past passive you can’t use the verbs "do," "does," or "did."

A fire was set in that old building and it was destroyed.

The agreement was made in just under an hour.

These houses were built in the 1950s.

Click here for more practice with the passive voice in the past tense.

Click here if you think you’re ready for a quiz.

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The word of the day is "drive."

drive / drove / driven

The most common use for "drive" is applied to cars and trucks, but it has other meanings. You can use it to describe a person’s ambition:

He’s driven to succeed.

She was driven to succeed by her parents.

It also means to use force or strength:

He’s driving those nails into the house with a nail gun.

They drive a hard bargain, but they’re good to do business with.

The manager is driving the company towards financial ruin.

It also has some idiomatic meanings:

What are you driving at? (What are you trying to say?)

You’re driving me crazy! (You’re making me crazy or mad.)

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Here’s a new reading assignment for the Green Level.

Today’s lesson is on the present passive. Some students are confused by this because the use of the past participle makes the sentence look like it’s in the past tense. Look at these sentences:

The bills are mailed out every month.

This tower is made of concrete.

This blog is updated every day.

The key to understanding the passive voice is to understand what verb tense the verb "be" is in. In the sentences above, the verb "be" is in the present tense. The past participle (mailed, made, updated) is the main verb, but it doesn’t indicate the verb tense. So when a sentence is in the present tense, passive voice, you will see either "am," "is," or "are," followed by the past participle.

Go to Lesson Three in the Green Level to learn more about the present passive.

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There’s a webinar today at 1 p.m. It’s not too late to sign up.

This is a picture of some eggs that my children dyed for Easter. It’s a tradition to dye eggs before the holiday.

Although Easter is a religious holiday, it has some very strong secular traditions in the United States for children. Before children wake up in the morning, the Easter Bunny hides gifts of candy and toys inside the house (kind of like Santa Claus). When the children wake up, they have to find the candy and toys that the Easter Bunny left for them.

If you’re looking for a job and need help talking about your job experience, this video might help you:

 

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I’m using Google Translate for the first time in the Blue Level. I’d be very grateful if you could try it out and tell me if it works well or not. The translator button is in the upper right portion of the page on all of the Blue Level lessons.

Is it a good idea to provide translation on my pages? Email me and tell me what you think or post your opinions in the chat section.

Where were you born? This question uses the passive voice. Most English speakers use the passive voice in conversation and writing without realizing it; however, when it comes to studying the passive voice, they get confused and frustrated. Click here for Lesson Two in the Green Level, and if you haven’t completed Lesson One yet, listen to and read yesterday’s blog entry and then go to the lesson.

In April, LearnAmericanEnglishOnline.com features the Green Level. If you go to the website every day this month and do the lessons that are listed, you will improve your ability to understand and use the passive voice.

What is the passive voice? It’s a sentence in which the subject receives the action of the verb. You form it with the verb “be” and the past participle. The best way to explain this is with an example:

The children are given breakfast every morning.

The verb “be” is in the present tense: “are.” The verb “give” is in the form of the past participle. There are two very important things to understand when making the passive voice. First, you have to know how to use the verb “be” in all its various forms. The verb “be” indicates the tense–present, past, continuous, etc. Second, you must know what past participles look like as regular and irregular verbs. If you don’t know these two things well, the passive voice will be difficult for you, and your English won’t sound good.

Many people confuse the passive voice with the past tense because of the past participle. What tense is the following sentence in?:

My car is being used by my brother.

If you said it’s in the present continuous tense, you’re right! If you don’t have any idea, complete all the Green Level lessons. You might also have to complete all the lessons in the Blue, Red, and Yellow levels.

One more thing about the passive voice. You can usually turn it around and form the active voice:

 Passive Voice: The children are given breakfast every morning.

 Active Voice: The mother gives the children breakfast every morning.

Notice that “The mother” is missing in the passive voice. That’s because you don’t always have to mention who is doing the action.

 Passive Voice: My car is being used by my brother.

 Active Voice: My brother is using my car.

Both sentences have the same meaning and use the same verb tense, but they are constructed differently.

Click here to go to the Green Level.

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Click here to go to March 2010

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