Learn American English Online Blog
December 31, 2010
Click here to review some of the things you learned in the Green Level.
I hope you have a safe New Year’s Eve. In the United States a lot of people go out to parties, but the weather is probably going to be terrible here tonight with a snowstorm expected to make driving treacherous, so I’ll just stay at home with my family. That’s what I would probably do anyway, regardless of the weather.
There are a lot of new things I’m going to try with the website in 2011, so be sure to keep coming back and tell your friends to visit.
December 30, 2010
If you look at an English dictionary, you’ll notice that the verb “get” has hundreds of different meanings when used with other words. This is a very confusing verb for many learners of English, but I urge you to spend time learning how to use it, whether you are a beginning or advanced student of the language. In Green Level Lesson 24, you will learn how to use “get” with past participles. Here are some examples in the past tense. I’ve included the main verb in the simple form in parentheses following each sentence:
Of course, you can’t use all verbs with “get” in this manner. If someone said, “The lesson got learned in school,” that might sound a little odd to some people (but not everyone!), so be careful and listen to how people put “get” and past participles together.
December 29, 2010
What’s the question to ask if you don’t know the name of something in English? There are many different things you could say. Lesson Twenty-three in the Green Level helps you with this.
What’s this called in English?
What is this thing called?
What’s the name for this?
What do you call this?
How do you say this in Engiish?
What’s the word I’m looking for?
December 28, 2010
Another verb that is often put into the passive voice is the verb "make," especially when talking about products and food. Green Level Lesson 22 provides some examples of how this verb is used.
How many different questions can you think of for these shoes using "be" and "make"?
These questions are all in the past tense:
Here are the answers to the questions:
For people who work with machines or produce things by hand, this is a good thing to learn.
December 27, 2010
The verb "use" is often put into the passive voice to describe how someone does something with an object. For example, look at this cookie cutter:
How is it used? What is it used for?
You use it to make cookies. It’s used for making cookies. You push it down into the cookie dough, then you lift it up and the dough is in the shape of the cookie cutter. This is in the shape of a reindeer. This Green Level lesson has more examples.
December 26, 2010
You’ll see four new lessons this week, starting with this one, and a review for the Green Level. Because I’m still working on these lessons, I’ll release them one by one each day of this week.
December 25, 2010
December 24, 2010
The key to understanding the passive voice it to understand how the verb "be" changes when a verb is passive. Click here to review some of the things you’ve learned so far this month. If this is confusing to you, go back to the Green Level lessons and review the verb tenses that are giving you trouble.
This is a really busy time of year. I’m sorry for not acknowledging emails, but I’ve been traveling a lot lately, visting people, and shopping for Christmas gifts. We still have one more week left in the Green Level. New lessons are on the way!!
December 23, 2010
Sometimes verbs in the continuous form are confused with verbs in the passive voice. Lesson 19 in the Green Level shows you how they are different.
December 22, 2010
Do you know the difference between the active voice and the passive voice? If you’ve been following all of the lessons for this month in the Green Level, you should. Check your knowledge here.
December 21, 2010
The lesson for today demonstrates a use for the verb "make" that might be new to you. "Make" is similar to "get" and "have" in yesterday’s lesson, but the difference is that it has more force, more power, and it suggests that one person is in a position of authority over another person. Look at this example:
She made her children finish their homework.
This describes a mother telling the children to do something. The children don’t really have a choice to do otherwise. They must do what they are told to do. The verb "make" clearly indicates that the mother has the authority to direct the actions of her children. Here are some more examples:
The teacher is going to make John stay after school.
Our boss makes us arrive at work ten minutes early.
Governments make their citizens pay taxes.
December 20, 2010
Today’s lesson is on the use of "get" and "have" in the causative form. The best way to learn about this is to compare some sentences:
These three sentences communicate the same thing; however, the first sentence is in the passive voice, and the other two sentences use the causative form. Who washed the car? We don’t know. But in the two sentences that use "have" and "get," the subject of the sentence is the one who seems to be directing the action.
The causative form is often applied by people who pay another person to do some work. Notice the word order:
All of the sentences above can be rewritten in the passive voice. How would you do that? You can go to the end of this blog entry if you aren’t sure.
There’s another way to write these sentences. If you want to mention the person who did the work, the word order changes, and the verb used with "get" or "have" is in the simple form. In sentences like these, I hesitate to use the word "object" because the person performing the main action is not the subject. It’s easier, instead, to show the word order like this:
Notice that if you use the verb "get," the verb following the person is in the form of an infinitive.
There are other verbs that you can use in place of "have" or "get," such as "let" and "make," but if you learning about this for the first time, it’s a good to keep this lesson simple. Tomorrow, you’ll learn how to use "make" in the causative form.
1. Her hair was dyed; 2. His teeth were cleaned; 3. The tree was cut down; 4. Our car was fixed.
December 19, 2010
Here’s a new video. It shows how to use "get" with a past participle.
It’s not always possible or wise to replace the verb "be" with the verb "get," but it happens quite a lot in English, especially if you want to emphasize the force of the action. The examples below are all in the past tense. Remember, the verb "be" indicates the verb tense. Compare:
December 18, 2010
Today’s lesson is on the use of passive gerunds. Gerunds are used in a manner that is similar to infinitives, but if you remember the Red Level lessons on gerunds and infinitives, you know that gerunds are used with particular verbs or for special circumstances. For example, you can use a gerund following the verb "enjoy."
They enjoy learning English.
She enjoys being photographed.
In the second sentence above, "photograph" is in the form of the past participle and the word "being" comes before it. These two words together form a passive gerund. You can’t use the infinitive after "enjoy" (She enjoys
The formula for passive gerunds looks like this:
being + the past participle
I like being given the freedom to make my own decisions.
I don’t like being told what to do.
She hates being confined in small spaces.
My students appreciate being introduced to new things.
Sometimes the passive gerund comes at the beginning of the sentence and serves as the subject. In this case, the verb that matches the subject is singular:
Being respected by other people is important.
Being noticed for her work was flattering.
December 17, 2010
The lesson for today is on infinitives in the passive voice. An infinitive looks like a verb but acts more like a noun. You’ll find infinitives in the position of subject or object (Click here to review infinitives).
An infinitive in the passive voice looks like this:
to be + the past participle
Let’s make a sentence with the regular verb "promote."
The first sentence uses a passive infinitive after the verb "want." The phrase "to be promoted" functions like an object in the first sentence. The second sentence uses the noun "promotion" after "want." The word "promotion" is the object in the second sentence. Both sentences have essentially the same meaning.
The next pair of sentences also have the same meaning. The first sentence uses an infinitive phrase in the position of the subject. The second sentence uses a noun in the position of the subject:
Infinitives in the passive voice are extremely common in English. Here are some more examples of sentences that contain them. Do you see where they are?
She doesn’t want to be given a vaccination.
He hopes to be treated fairly in court.
The employees don’t think she is qualified to be made CEO.
To be appointed commissioner was a great honor.
December 16, 2010
The word of the day is "bummed." This word came up during one of my classes recently, and my students were very interested in knowing what it means and how to use it. The root word for "bummed" is "bum." It generally means to depress or to make someone feel unhappy:
She’s bummed that she didn’t get that job.
This word is often used with the preposition "out":
This movie is bumming me out.
Try not to feel too bummed out about your test score.
I’m bummed out about this.
You can also use "bum" as a noun: bummer
It’s a bummer not to have a car when you need one.
Having to start work at 3 a.m. is a bummer.
That’s a bummer.
"Bummer" is often heard as a one-word interjection:
Today’s lesson is on the use of the past perfect tense in the passive voice.
December 15, 2010
Today’s lesson is on the present perfect tense in the passive voice. It looks like this:
has or have + been + the past participle
Remember that the subject determines the use of "has" or "have." Here are some examples with the verb "give."
I have been given some good advice.
You have been given opportunities to learn new things.
He has been given a lot of things to do at work.
She’s been given a new car.
It hasn’t been given enough time. (negative)
December 14, 2010
How well did you do with yesterday’s lesson? The present continuous tense in the passive voice is very deceiving because the past participle leads some people to believe that the sentence is in the past tense. To help lessen any confusion you might be experiencing, let’s look at the passive voice in both the present continuous tense and the past continuous tense.
Present Continuous Tense — Passive Voice
(be) am or is or are + being + the past participle
Compare the above sentences to sentences in the past continuous tense:
Past Continuous Tense — Passive Voice
was or were + being + the past participle
December 13, 2010
Today’s lesson is on the present continuous tense in the passive voice. Click here for the lesson.
Here’s a new page for practicing your reading.
December 12, 2010
I love living in the upper midwest in the United States. We get all kinds of weather. In the summer, it gets really hot. In the winter, it gets really cold, and sometimes we have blizzards. Click on the picture below to see what a blizzard looks like from my front door.
There’s a gigantic snowdrift in front of my front door!!
December 11, 2010
Today’s lesson is similar to yesterday’s lesson, but the verbs featured in Green Level Lesson Nine are in the past tense. Look at the picture below:
There are a number of different elements to consider here. First, this sentence is in the passive voice. This is indicated by "would have been." Remember, that the verb "be" indicates the passive voice. Second, the use of the modal verb "would" provides a shade of meaning that is different from other possible modal verbs such as "should" or "could." Third, the main verb is in the form of the past participle: "demolished." The presence of the past participle and the verb "be" make this sentence passive.
This is also a conditional sentence. The building "would have been demolished," but it wasn’t. To learn more about conditional sentences, click here for a lesson in the Orange Level.
Let’s look at another example of this use for the passive voice. This is especially important for intermediate and advanced learners of English to understand because it’s very common in English to make sentences like these but it’s confusing for students:
But the holes were not fixed. Bats and birds found the inside of the attic to be very comfortable, so they moved in last summer and made a small mess. Who should have fixed the holes? Me — your teacher! But I didn’t have time, or I was too lazy to do the work. However, since this picture was taken last summer, the holes have been filled and this side of my house has been painted. Who did the work? I did. But the work should have been done much sooner.
December 10, 2010
When using a modal verb with the passive voice, the formula looks like this:
Remember, you always use the verb "be" in the simple form after a modal verb, and then follow that with the past participle.
This video might help you as well:
December 9, 2010
What are you supposed to do today? We use this type of a question when asking about a person’s obligations and responsibilities. Another person, group, or institution expects you to do something:
I’m supposed to meet my friend at the airport.
(My friend expects me to meet him there.)
The show is supposed to start at 8:00.
(I expect it to be on when I turn the TV on at 8:00.)
You’re supposed to finish all of your work before you leave.
(Your boss expects you to do it.)
Click here to go to today’s lesson.
Click here to take a quiz on (be) supposed to.
December 8, 2010
When you study the passive voice, eventually you discover that you can often use the verb "get" in place of the verb "be." For example….
It’s very important to learn that "get" can substitute for "be" when forming the passive voice because "get" is commonly used as a main verb, and it’s found in many idioms and slang.
December 7, 2010
The future passive is very common. It can be made in a few different ways:
will + be + the past participle
(be) going to + be + the past participle
Here are some examples:
The movie will be shown at 8:00.
Food will be provided.
The movie is going to be shown at 8:00.
Food is going to be provided.
In the form of a question, it looks like this:
Will you be examined by the doctor?
Are you going to be examined by the doctor?
December 6, 2010
Today’s lesson is on the past tense in the passive voice. If you look at previous blog entries below, you’ll see that I’ve already talked about this, so let’s try an exercise today to see how much you know about using the passive voice.
These sentences are all in the past tense. Change them to the passive voice. Remember, when you use the passive voice you don’t need to include the person or thing performing the action. For example:
How did you do? The answers are below. If you had trouble with this exercise, be sure to look at today’s lesson.
Answers: 1. Their orders were placed. 2. The students were helped. 3. Snow was shoveled off of the driveway. 4. A lot of old songs were performed. 5. A lot of people were called on the phone.
December 5, 2010
Click here to practice your reading and listening. Many of the sentences are in the passive voice.
Here’s a new video for "each other" and "one another."
December 4, 2010
Today’s lesson shows examples of how to use the passive voice in the present tense. If you feel like you already know how to do this, click here for a quiz.
December 3, 2010
One of the most common uses for the passive voice is for describing the location or year of your birth. Click here for the lesson of the day.
Yesterday I showed you an example of a sentence in the present tense, passive voice (The potatoes are cooked for ten minutes). To change that sentence from the present tense to the past tense, all you need to do is to change the verb "be."
The potatoes were cooked for ten minutes.
Notice that the main verb in the form of the past participle remains the same. To make that same sentence singular, change the subject and the verb "be."
The potato was cooked for ten minutes.
Click here to learn more about making the passive voice in the past tense. This is also the lesson for Monday. I think it’s a good idea for you to compare the present tense and the past tense in the passive voice.
December 2, 2010�
Today’s lesson is an introduction to the passive voice. (Look at yesterday’s blog entry, too!) Beginning level students often confuse this with the past tense because of the past participle. As I mentioned yesterday, the past participle is the main verb in the passive voice, but you must look at what form the verb "be" takes to determine the tense:
The potatoes are cooked for ten minutes.
When you look at the sentence above, do you see the verb "be"? It’s in the plural form and it matches the subject, "potatoes." The main verb is "cook." It’s in the form of the past participle. You can change the sentence to the active voice, which is what everyone learns when they first learn English. In the active voice, the sentence looks like this:
Cook the potatoes for ten minutes.
The sentence above is written as a command and the subject is "you." This sentence is clearly in the present tense.
This is what the sentence looks like in the past tense:
I cooked the potatoes for ten minutes.
The subject is "I" and the main verb, "cook" is in the past tense. This is not the same sentence as the first one I showed you, "The potatoes are cooked for ten minutes." Do you understand the differences? If not, go back to the Blue and Red Levels and study the lessons on the present tense and the past tense.
December 1, 2010
In the month of December, we study the passive voice in the Green Level. You are ready for this level if you have learned about all the verb tenses in the first three levels. If you don’t know how to conjugate verbs properly in the active voice, learning about the passive voice in the Green Level might be too difficult. Go back to the Blue, Red, and Yellow levels and learn about all the different verb tenses used in English if you think another review of verb tenses is necessary.
There are two important questions you need to know the answer to when making the passive voice:
The mail is delivered in the afternoon.
Do you see the verb "be" in this sentence? If so, what tense is it in? The verb "be" indicates the tense in the passive voice. Do you see the main verb? What is it? The main verb is in the form of the past participle. This sentence ( The mail is delivered in the afternoon) is in the present tense and the main verb is "deliver."
Many people confuse the passive voice with the past tense because a regular verb takes an "ed" ending when it’s in the form of a past participle, or an irregular verb takes the same form in the past tense and as a past participle. Look at these examples:
The packages are shipped overnight.
The bread is baked in the oven.
I am called "Teacher" by my students.
All of the above sentences are in the present tense, passive voice. The main verbs are all regular.
A lot of money is made during the Christmas season. (present tense)
A lot of money was made last year. (past tense)
A lot of money is being made right now. (present continuous tense)
A lot of money has been made. (present perfect tense)
These sentences all use the irregular verb "make" as the main verb, but notice that the verb tenses are all different. The tense of the verb is indicated by the verb "be."
Did you miss the month of November? We studied…
Click here to go to November 2010