The LAEO Blog – Learn English Here Every Day

February 27, 2009  


I’ve decided to change the schedule a little. Instead of repeating the Green Level, we will start the Purple Level in March. According to the schedule that I laid out in August, some levels were to be repeated so that we’d spend two months in one area, but I think that’s boring. If you’ve been following along, please note the change.

February 26, 2009

My friend Sergey in Russia sent me these Russian proverbs translated from Russian to English. The first one is also commonly used in the United States:

Better late than never.

A delicate calf is able to suck milk from two mothers.

Better fewer, but better.

Thanks Sergey!

Proverbs are short expressions of wisdom. They make their way into the language over a long period of time, and eventually everyone knows them and uses them in conversation and writing. If you have some in your language that you’d like to translate into English, please send them to me and I can post a few in my blog.

February 25, 2009

A new email went out to all my students this morning. If you’re not on my email list, be sure to sign up on the home page. Signing up is free!

February 24, 2009

Yesterday in my intermediate level class we read about and discussed the life of Benjamin Franklin. He was an early American diplomat, inventor, philosopher–you name it, he did it. He was also a good writer, and his proverbs are well known in the United States 200 years later. Here’s one:

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

What do you think that means?

Here’s a link to a new video. It’s on the causative form. It’s also featured on the home page today if you want to go back there to take a look at it.


February 23, 2009

The causative form is related to the passive voice but uses only have and get:

I had my house cleaned last weekend.

I got my house cleaned last weekend.

Who did the work? Who cleaned my house? Not I. Someone else cleaned the house. Compare that to the passive voice:

My house was cleaned last weekend.

For more practice, go to this lesson.

Hey, Slumdog Millionaire was the big winner at the Academy Awards last night. How exciting for all the people involved. It will be interesting to see what impact Indian cinema has on American movies in upcoming years.

February 21, 2009

Here’s a new pronunciation video:


This is for the "m" sound and the "n" sound. I’ve noticed over the years, that many of my students have trouble with the "m" sound in particular.


February 20, 2009

In today’s lesson, we study passive gerunds. You can use…

"being" + the past participle
"getting" + the past participle
They hate being given more work to do.
He avoided getting laid off from work.

Gerunds are generally more difficult to use in the passive voice than infinitives, but you should learn about them because they are commonly found in conversation and writing. it helps also to know which verbs in particular are normally used with gerunds because you can’t use any old verb. Can you match these verbs with "being" or "getting" and the past participle?

past participle













laid off







I remember getting called late last night.

She loves being tickled under the chin.

We keep getting told that things will get better.

Can you think of additional sentences that can be created by putting these words together?

Learn more here.

February 19, 2009

Here’s a new YouTube video that I made to demonstrate how an infinitive (to be) is used in the passive voice.


Here are some more examples:

The people need to be listened to.

The employees hate to be forced to work on the weekend.

I want to be reassigned to a different department.

She doesn’t want to be transferred to a new location.

February 18, 2009

A lot of money has been given to American banks so that they can remain in business.

This sentence is in the present perfect tense, passive voice. Who gave them the money?

American taxpayers have given them the money. (This sentence is in the active voice)

To practice the passive voice in the present perfect tense, click here.

To practice the passive voice in the past perfect tense, click here.

If you pay any attention to the news, you know that the economic situation is pretty bad in most countries around the world. Today President Obama signed a bill (a proposal for a law) into law that will provide money to states for programs that will create new jobs or keep people in their old jobs. I’ve been getting a lot of email from visitors to my website who tell me that they’ve just lost their job. Well, help may be on the way. And the United States isn’t the only country that is spending money to keep people employed. It’s also happening in Japan, China, and many European countries.

I’ve changed the Chat page a little by adding some features from Google. Tell me what you think.

February 17, 2009

I’m getting a lot email from people who are desperate to practice speaking English with someone who is a native speaker. In Minnesota, many of the libraries and churches have free opportunities for English learners to practice speaking to Americans in conversations. Check with your local library to see if they offer this service.

Libraries in the United States are available to everyone. Don’t be shy about calling them and asking for information about places where you can practice your English. If they don’t already have a conversation group, maybe they’ll start one.

If you live in Minnesota and you live near the Twin Cities, you can go here for more information. (But you must live in the Twin Cities to participate. Don’t contact them if you don’t live here! And if you don’t live in Minnesota, you should think about moving here because this state offers all kinds of great services like this one.)

February 16, 2009

At the time that the American Civil War was being fought between the northern and the southern states in the United States, European countries were too busy with their own problems to consider becoming involved.

The sentence above includes an example of the past continuous tense in the passive voice. Also, I chose to write this sentence because today is President’s Day. In the United States we remember the great Presidents–mainly Washington and Lincoln–who helped make this country into what it is today. Abraham Lincoln was the President during the Civil War (1861-1865).

February 15, 2009

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I’ll list some common expressions that you hear in the United States which express love and desire:

She’s crazy about her boyfriend. (She really loves him.)

He’s nuts about her. (He really loves her.)

They’re head over heels in love. (This describes two people in love)

He can’t stop thinking about her. (The relationship is just starting, ongoing, or it’s over)

I can’t get you out of my head. (The relationship is over, but I still think about you.)

And when a man really wants to impress his girlfriend, he’ll quote the greatest writer of English prose who ever lived, William Shakespeare:

Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.

This means that real love is unconditional and doesn’t change as a situation changes. A man who loves a woman will continue to love her–no matter what–if the love is real to begin with.

February 14, 2009

Today’s Valentine’s Day. What do you know about Valentine’s Day? Here’s a page I put together that provides some history and basic information.

Hey, I’m getting A LOT of requests from people who want to talk to me in person on their cell phone so that they can practice their English. I can’t do it. My website is intended as a resource that you can go to at any time and learn some English, but I can’t possibly help every person who contacts me with personal emails and phone calls. Please understand. The website is something I do part-time, and it’s free. A few recent emails I got this week were written in anger because I wouldn’t provide a personal response to a request. Wow! The nerve of some people.

February 13, 2009

Sorry to say I had to eliminate another 100 people from my email list this morning because they were’t checking their email lessons. Please check your email. Looking at email that I send out is kind of like going to the class. If you don’t go to class, the teacher will take your name off the class roster. Right now the website is free, but in the future I might have to charge a small subscription fee to all newcomers. Just so you know. (I can see what you’re doing!)

Today’s lesson is on the present continuous tense in the passive voice. Here’s the formula:

Subject + (be) + being + the past participle

They are being punished because they were talking in class while the teacher was talking.

This is happening right now. The teacher is punishing them (the students). The main verb is "punish." It’s a regular verbs so the past participle adds "ed" to the simple form of the verb.

punish / punished / punished

In the United States, punishment of a student takes the form of a detention. Students might come in after school and clean the room or the blackboards for the teacher. (We can’t hit the kids here–which I think is a good thing!)

For more practice, go here.

February 12, 2009

Something should have been done before the situation got worse.

The above sentence is an example of past tense modals used in the passive voice. We use this to describe situations that did or didn’t happen in the past.

My car should have been fixed yesterday. (but it wasn’t.)

He could have been hurt in the accident. (He wasn’t hurt)

The project might not have gotten completed without her help. (Or, her help wasn’t necessary)

She would have been hired if she hadn’t come to the interview wearing a nose ring.(She went to the interview wearing a nose ring; the interviewer didn’t like her appearance, so he didn’t hire her.)

For more practice, go to the ninth lesson in the Green Level.

February 10, 2009

The website went down yesterday. Sorry about that. The company that hosts my site made a huge mistake, but I think everything is okay now. Please email me and let me know if there are pages that you can’t see. Thanks for your help!

February 9, 2009

One interesting thing about the passive voice is that you can replace the verb "be" with the verb "get." What difference does that make? In my opinion, "get" is a little stronger than "be" and in some cases, its use might be a little more popular. You also must know how "get" changes in various tenses.

get / got / gotten

She gets paid on Friday. (present tense)

Did you get laid off from your job? (past tense question)

Have they gotten the package they were expecting? (present perfect tense)

My wallet will get stolen if I leave it in my car. (future tense)

For more practice with "get" in the passive voice, you can go here.

I’m now on Facebook. I’m not sure why it’s important to be on there, but I put together a page and you should be able to find me under "Learn American English Online."


February 7, 2009

For those of you with Facebook or Myspace accounts or other social network sites, I’d like to ask you for a small favor. If you could put a link on your page to my website, that would expose it to more people who might want to learn English. Or tell one or two of your friends about the website. Right now there are about 5700 members on this website and I’d like to get to 10,000 by the end of the summer.

Why is it important to have so many members? Well, in the future, I’d like to make the website more fun and interactive so that people can talk to each other, to me, and perhaps to other teachers or Americans who live here and just want to help out with online conversations but it’s important to have a large number of members first. If you put up a link, make it look like this:


Free online English since 2003

Thanks for helping to promote the website!


February 6, 2009

What will be done to fix the U.S. economy?

What is going to be done to fix the U.S. economy?

These questions are in the future passive voice. You can use the simple future or the "going to" future tense:

Subject + will + be + the past participle


Subject + (be) going to + be + the past participle

Confused? Click here to learn more.


February 5, 2009

Today’s lesson is on using the passive voice in the past tense. Remember that the verb "be" determines the tense, so you have just two choices: "was" and "were," depending on the subject.

A tornado was reported in the area just an hour ago.

We were given one hour to take the test.

She was saddened by the bad news.

I was taught to say "please" and "thank-you" by my mother.

Well, it’s only February, but it’s time to start planning for the planting season coming up in April. Many of you who know me know that I’m a gardener and I like to grow as much of my own food as possible, so it’s time to start looking through seed catalogs and make plans to buy seeds and other things for the gardens. This year I’ll grow potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, asparagus, basil, cilantro, and carrots. There are some other things that can be added to the list later, but I haven’t decided yet what they will be.

Growing your own food is good for the environment and good for your pocketbook! If you do it properly, it’s also a rewarding experience in itself because it’s so interesting to watch things come up out of the ground. Are you a gardener or a farmer? Tell me what you grow in an email or send me a picture of your garden.

February 4, 2009

When a sentence is in the passive voice and in the present tense, some students are confused by the past participle and might believe the sentence is in the past tense:

It’s made with chicken, onions, and tomatoes.

The sentence above is in the present tense. The verb "be" changes to "is" because the subject is "it." The subject and the verb are in the form of a contraction, "It’s."

It’s very important to pay attention to the verb "be" when determining the tense in the passive voice. All the sentences below are in the present tense, passive voice:

She’s given five dollars a week for her allowance.

They’re helped by their neighbors.

I’m assisted in the classroom by a paraprofessional.

This lesson will help you learn more about the passive voice in the present tense.

February 3, 2009

making thai fooda mother and daughter make Thai food in this YouTube video

Hey, I found this really great website for making Thai food. Click here. I started eating Thai food over 20 years ago at the Star of Siam when I lived in Chicago, and to this day, Thai food still surprises me with its interesting flavors and textures. It’s pretty healthy, too! However, if you don’t like spicy food, be careful what you order.

You know, I try to answer emails as much as possible, but the last group that came in is too much too handle. Thanks to everyone for writing to me personally. I’ll do my best to respond within the next week.

February 2, 2009

Today is Groundhog Day in the United States. This is not a holiday. Instead, it’s just one of those silly things that we do here in the U.S. to try to predict how much longer winter will last. This is the way it works: If the groundhog comes out of his burrow on February 2 and sees his shadow, he will be frightened back into his hole, and that means we will have another six weeks of winter. A cloudy day — and no shadow — means winter will end early. This is a big event in Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania:

groundhog day

February 1, 2009

Today is Superbowl Sunday. In the United States, the championship game for football is called the Superbowl. Even for those people who don’t like football very much, it’s a very popular game to watch. Many people have Superbowl parties on this day to watch the game with family and friends.

This month begins the Green Level. In this level, you will improve your ability to use the passive voice.




Click here to go to January 2009