I recommend that you review the Green Level. Go back and look at lessons that you had trouble with when studying the passive voice. It’s very easy to make mistakes with it. We’ll study it together again in April 2010.

Here’s a new video on prices and amounts. We studied this recently in one of the classes I teach during the day. I thought it would make a good video, especially for beginning students.


In today’s lesson, I want you to look carefully at the difference between sentences in the passive voice and sentences that are continuous.

Many books have been written about cooking.

Barb and Sandra have been writing a book about cooking.

Which one is passive? The first sentence is in the passive voice, but you can see and hear how similar the two verb phrases are in these sentences. There are more examples in this lesson.

If you’ve been following the calendar for the lessons on this website, you’ll notice we’re coming to the conclusion of the Green Level and our study of the passive voice. I recommend that you complete all of the quizzes for this level if your understanding of the passive voice is weak.

Starting this week, we will move onto the Purple Level. In this level, we’re going to study 20 really important verbs for speaking English. You’ll notice that these are simple verbs, but people in the U.S. are fairly plain spoken and often choose to use a vocabulary which matches that fact.

I received another really good response to the email lesson sent out yesterday on the word "make." I do read all of my email, but now it’s impossible to write back to everyone who writes to me.

One thing that helps me plan for the future of the website is the feedback that I get from students. Your questions about grammar, phrases, or particular words provide me with ideas for new videos or new sections of the website.

For beginning level students, I understand some sections of the website are too difficult to understand. I’ll try to fix that.

Intermediate and advanced level students often want something that I may not be able to provide. In that case, I recommend that you go to the Links section of the website where I’ve listed some good, free (almost) websites for you to visit.

In today’s lesson, you will study the causative form. This is a way of creating a sentence that is similar to the passive voice, but you don’t use the verb "be." Instead, you can use the verbs "have" or "get."

She had her house cleaned.

She got her house cleaned.

Her house got cleaned.

I have my oil changed every 3000 miles.

I get my oil changed every 3000 miles.

My oil gets changed every 3000 miles.

This is an important lesson to look at. Click here to learn about some unusual uses of "get" and "have."

Hey, as of yesterday I have 10,000 people who now call themselves members and receive email from this website. Wow!

Today’s lesson is similar to yesterday’s. Click here to learn about passive gerunds.

Infinitives and gerunds can be used in the passive voice. We’ll look at infinitives today and gerunds tomorrow.

infinitives in the passive voice:

to be + the past participle

She hopes to be chosen for the job.

This needs to be cleaned.

My dog doesn’t like to be given a bath.

Click here for the lesson of the day.

Here’s a new video that shows the difference between "we’re" and were:

What a great response to the email that went out yesterday! It will take me a while to get through all of it. Thanks for sending in the pictures. They really help to build a sense of community on the website.

The website is almost at 10,000 members worldwide.

One good reason for using the passive voice is so that you can describe an action without naming the person who performs it. You can do that in the active voice as well by using the pronoun "they." Do you use this pronoun when you describe people you don’t see or know? If not, here are some examples of this below. I put these in the email lesson today and asked students to change them into the passive voice. Compare the two sentences in the active and the passive voice.

1. They’re cleaning the building tomorrow. (active voice)

 The building is being cleaned tomorrow. (passive voice)

2. They hired you last week. (active voice)

 You were hired last week. (passive voice)

3. They told him to come in tomorrow. (active voice)

 He was told to come in tomorrow. (passive voice)

4. They’ll fix the water heater as soon as possible. (active voice)

 The water heater will be fixed as soon as possible. (passive voice)

5. They provide the students at that school with a good education. (active)

 The students at that school are provided with a good education. (passive)

The beginning of the school year has been really busy. I haven’t sent out an emailed lesson in a couple of weeks. One is coming soon.

At the beginning of this week, we’re learning how to use the passive voice in the present continuous and the past continuous tenses. Here’s what it looks like in the present continuous tense:

My house is being painted.

Who’s painting the house? We don’t know. But we know that the action is happening right now, and I’m not the one doing the work. Here are a few more examples:

His computer is being fixed.

As you might remember from Lesson Six, the verb "be" can be replaced with the verb "get":

His computer is getting fixed.

To learn more, go to Lessons Ten and Eleven in the Green Level.

Hi Angela — Thanks for leaving your recording. It really helped me to decide what to do next with my website.

What do you like to do on the weekend? I often jump on my bike and ride around the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul). Here’s a picture I took during one recent ride to the Sculputure Garden in Minneapolis. The title of the sculpture is Spoonbridge and Cherry. It’s one of the most famous outdoor sculptures in the United States.

Spoonbridge and Cherry

Spoonbridge and Cherry

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Here’s a new quiz for you to practice "have to" in the passive voice. Everyone needs a lot of help with this. Look at this sentence in the active voice:

She has to do the laundry.

It looks like this in the passive voice:

The laundry has to be done.

This is what it looks like in the negative:

The laundry doesn’t have to be done.

Confused? A review of yesterday’s lesson might help you understand this a little better. Try the quiz above, too.

Today we will commemorate the eighth anniversary of the attacks on New York and Washington by Al Qaeda terrorists. This is always a sad day in the United States. For me, the hardest part of the tragedy to accept was that people who came here under the pretense of finding a better life turned on us. Immigration provides energy and creativity to our economy and the social fabric of the population. Immigrants are not enemies.

Is there anything that you’re supposed to do today? What are you supposed to do? The use of "(be) supposed to" creates a sentence that’s kind of like the passive voice. Someone expects you to do something.

My students expect me to be in the classroom this morning.

I’m supposed to be in the classroom this morning.

The setences above have the same meaning, but the second sentence is better and easier to use. To learn more about how to use "(be) supposed to," click here.

I had some problems today with the home page for the website. Remember to bookmark pages that you are working on so that they can be found more easily.

The beginning of the school year is underway in the United States. This is a really busy time for students and teachers. Everyone wants to make a good first impression and get off to a good start.

The lesson for the day shows you how to use the verb "get" instead of the verb "be" when forming the passive voice. Did you know that you can do that? Look at the sentences below:

The house was built quickly.

The house got built quickly.

A lot of money is spent on food.

A lot of money gets spent on food.

Do you see how similar these sentences are? The only difference is in the use of the verbs "be" and "get." To learn more about how to make the passive voice with the verb "get," click here.


Today’s lesson is on the future passive. You can make the future passive like this:

A speech will be given today.

Or like this:

A speech is going to be given today.

If you don’t used the passive voice, you can say this:

Barack Obama will give a speech today.


Barack Obama is going to give a speech today.

For many students in the United States, this is the first day of school after Labor Day weekend. President Obama is going to speak to the nation’s schoolchildren, which is not traditionally done here every year, but other presidents in the past (Bush and Reagan) have spoken directly to kids as the schoolyear began. Unfortunately, there are some Republicans and conservatives in the country who fear that this speech is some kind of political indoctrination so dangerous that they have chosen to keep their children at home today. It’s very sad that this minority of the American public is choosing fear over reason–and they’re passing it on to their kids.

You can go here to learn more about the future passive.

The present passive voice confuses students because the main verb often looks like it’s in the past tense. Remember, however, that the verb "be" is the one that determines the verb tense:

I’m paid every two weeks.

She’s driven to work by her husband.

We’re provided with books in the classroom.

Each of these sentences is in the present tense, passive voice. The main verbs in these sentences, pay, drive, and provide, are in the form of the past participle, but you might think they are in the past tense. Be careful! The verb "be" indicates the tense: ‘m = am, ‘s = is, ‘re = are.

Go here to learn more about using verbs in the present passive.


Where were you born? When were you born? These questions are in the passive voice. They’re in the past tense because the verb "be" (was) indicates the tense. When you answer these questions, you are using the passive voice:

I was born in _______.

I was born in 1963.

I was born in Badkannstadt, Germany.

My mother and father lived in Germany in the early 1960s because my father was serving in the U.S. military at the time. I lived there as a baby for one year before our family moved back to the United States.

Today’s lesson is the easiest of all the lessons that explore the passive voice.

If you’ve been studying with me and following the calendar since we began the Blue Level in June, you have learned about all the verb tenses. Now you can learn how to use them in the passive voice. I think it’s a good idea to learn about all the verb tenses first before learning about the passive voice because the passive voice looks like and sounds like the past tense when, in fact, it can be used with present, past, future, perfect, continuous tenses, and with modal verbs.Look at these sentences:

  • The house is cleaned every week.
  • The house is being cleaned right now.
  • The house will be cleaned this weekend.

Not one of these sentences is in the past tense, but when you see the word “cleaned,” the “ed” ending might give these sentences the appearance of being in the past tense. Who is doing the cleaning in these sentences? We don’t know. That’s what makes the passive voice so useful. You can describe an action without mentioning who performed that action.

This is the formula for the passive voice:

“be” + the past participle

You can often use “get” instead of “be”:

  • The house gets cleaned every week.
  • The house is getting cleaned right now.
  • The house will get cleaned this weekend.

Almost all of the Green Level is about the Passive Voice. Each day during the month of September, you should go there to practice the exercises, watch the videos, and complete the quizzes. I recommend that you write the answers to the quizzes by hand because writing helps you to remember what you have learned. I’ll be adding some new quizzes to this level this month.



Click here to go to August 2009