“To let oneself be carried on passively is unthinkable.”Virginia Wolf

This week C1 M/W has been looking at the immense topic of the Passive.  Here is a little support in its use.  A reminder, as always, seeing the structures for yourselves will give you more awareness of how and when it is used. Reading newspaper articles will help you no end in identifying it in various forms.  Reading in general will always be a good friend in language learning.

Things to remember:

  • Only with verbs that have an object (Transitive).  I like to think of an object being transported in a suitcase. The verbs that are greedy and take two objects behave in various ways, which is nicely summarised and exemplified here.
  • If we want to introduce the agent use ‘by’.
  • Phrasal verbs which may be split in the active, cannot be split in the passive. Eg. The spy picked the package up from the locker at the train station = The package was picked up from the locker at the train station.
  • Passive usually pops up in more formal or technical writing.
  • If used in informal speech, we can use ‘get’ instead of ‘be’. We need to be careful with the position of adverbs in this case.  The homework was ‘accidentally’ left behind in the classroom = The homework ‘accidentally’ got left behind in the classroom. (Please note the inverted commas are not only indicating position, but also skepticism at it being accidental!)

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“The language of friendship is not words but meanings.” -Henry David Thoreau

Some food for thought.  And quite a fitting quote for my gift for you today.  Click on the link for a beautiful pdf of the most common false friends that I have come across over the years.  Some of these little weasels never fail to make their way into students’ writings, stealing the true meaning of what they actually want to say.

My personal favourite though, was at a wedding in Portugal and the official translator told us in English that we were there pretending to marry the bride and groom.  Thankfully it wasn’t all pretend, they are legally married!




Arrival, starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Remmer and Forest Whitaker, is an interesting take on the usual sci-fi film involving aliens.  Not only is its plot thought-provoking on many levels, the linguistic element is truly fascinating as well. The film also serves as a critique on how we behave on earth in terms of how we relate to other nations. For me, a must-see. To whet your appetite, here is the trailer.

The title itself actually gave me the idea for the blog post as the verb arrive and its prepositions is something which is often perplexing for Spanish speakers.   Continue reading

Would you fall in love with Her?


CAE compact will be looking at a text this week related to our modern day dependence on technology and our diminishing communication skills.  Artificial intelligence crops up and suggests that people will actually start falling in love with artificial personal assistants.  Her, a film created by Spike Jonze and starring Joaquin Phoenix, deals with this such issue.  Here is an interesting blog with content related to the film and the topic it deals with.