Adam: Hi again. This is Adam. I'm here to you with another lesson from
www.engvid.com. And today's lesson is a little bit complicated, but a little bit
basic at the same time. Today, we're gonna look at the passive form of the
verb. Now, before we get to look at the more complicated things — like the four
reasons to use the passive — let's have a very quick review of: What is a
passive, and how do we construct it? So, if we look at a basic sentence: "The cat
ate the rat." Okay? Very easy. We have our subject, we have our verb, and we
have our object. Very simple. Everybody knows this; no problem. What we have to
remember is that in this sentence, the subject is doing the action to the
object. Good. In a passive sentence, we are reversing this order. Okay? We are
going, now, this way. What was the object is now the subject. And we have a
verb: "was eaten"; "by the cat" is now less important. If we want to say it, we
say it; if we don't, we take it out. But this is now not an object. We call this,
now, the agent — the person or thing that is doing the action. So, the
difference here is that the subject is now receiving the action. Very easy; no
problem. How do we create the passive? "Be" verb plus the past participle;
"verb three" some of you call it. Okay, no problem.
Now, what we have to concentrate on is the four reasons we use the passive.
Students always ask me: "I know how to use the passive, but why am I using the
passive? I can communicate easily. I can speak easily, I can write easily, and
never use the passive." Of course you can, but there are reasons to use it.
Okay, so the first reason that we would use a passive is because the subject is
unknown, obvious, or not important. If we don't know who or what did the
action, we can use a passive. If we know very clearly, it's very obvious who did
the action, then we can use a passive. If the person or thing that did the
action is just not important to our sentence, we can take it out and use the
passive. I'm gonna give you some examples; don't worry. Another reason
and a very important reason, especially when you're writing, is to shift focus
of subject. If you want the object of your last sentence to now be the subject
of your next sentence, you can use the passive to make that switch. Remember:
"The cat ate the rat" — we switched it: "The rat was eaten by the cat." Great.
Now, again, coming back to that question: "I don't need to use it; I can
communicate easily without it." Yes, of course you can, but you want sentence
variety. If you say: "He did this, he did that, then he did this, then he did
that" — that's very boring. Nobody wants to listen to it. Really, nobody wants to
read it; trust me. And the last reason is for coherence — to make it something
very understandable; and flow — to make your... especially writing, flow from
one sentence to the next; one idea to the next. Makes it more enjoyable for
the reader. Now, let's look at some specific examples of each one of these
Okay, so let's look at subject is unknown, obvious, not important first.
"The building was vandalized." Now, first of all, what does "vandalized"
mean? "Vandalized" means that somebody came and did some damage to the
building. Maybe they spray-painted; maybe they broke some windows, etcetera.
So, who did this? We don't know. I could say that: "Vandals did this", but I
don't need to say it; that comes from the word — it's obvious. I could say
that: "Somebody did this", but, why? Better to use the passive and
concentrate on the building, and what happened to it. "The flowers were
delivered on time." Who delivered it? Well, it's obvious — either the flower
company or the delivery company. I don't need to say it; it's very clear that one
of these two delivered the flowers. "The roads were fixed quickly." Who fixed
them? Who cares? They're fixed — that's what's important. I can drive; I'm
happy. Now, we can also use the passive and we commonly use the passive to give
information. "The airplane was invented in the early 20th century." Exactly when
— I don't want to say. Who invented it? I don't want to say. Why? Maybe there's
a little controversy, there; maybe not everybody believes the Wright brothers
invented the airplane in 1903. So, what do I want to concentrate on? The
airplane. Right? That's why I'm using the passive. We have to choose what is
more important and what is less important. So, this is the main reason;
this is the most common reason we use the passive. Okay? Let's look at some
Okay, let's look at the third reason. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten number
two; I'm going to do that after. First, I want to look at sentence variety. Now,
why is this important? This is especially important for any of you who
are going to take the IELTS or TOEFL. Why? Because you're going to have to
write an essay. Many, many points come with this little topic, here: Sentence
variety. So, now, you could write all your sentences in a standard subject,
verb, object way. You could say: "He did A, then he did B. After that, he did C."
What is the problem with this? No problem. Grammatically, it's okay. In
terms of English, you can put nice words in here. Okay. What is the problem? The
problem is that it is boring. You don't want a boring essay; you want a fun,
lively, engaging essay. This is what the readers are looking for. Right? "So, how
does the passive come into play here?" you ask yourself. Well, I'll tell you.
The passive allows you to play with sentence structure, so it allows you to
have different varieties of sentences. "He did A." Same start. "C wasn't done
until he had completed B." My mistake, here. Not only do you have a passive,
you have a past perfect — bravo. Extra points for you if you can do this. But,
first, you got to have that passive; you got to get to that passive first. Okay?
This gives you sentence variety. Now, when you see the next part, you'll see
reasons number two and four together — you'll understand even more how the
passive can create nice sentences, create good flow, make it all easier,
and focus the reader's attention on exactly what you want them to. Okay? The
passive is very powerful. Remember this. Let's look at the next examples.
Okay, so now we come to what is probably the most important reason to use the
passive. And, again, especially for writing, and especially for the IELTS
and TOEFL. We're looking at shifting focus and creating flow in our writing.
So, for example, you are writing an essay about Coca-Cola. What is the most
important thing you're going to talk about? Of course, it's Coca-Cola, right?
So, you want this to be your subject. "John Pemberton invented Coca-Cola." We
don't really care about John Pemberton; we care about what he invented. So, we
switch around the sentence, right? "Coca-Cola was invented by a pharmacist
named John Pemberton." Easy. We put the focus on the Coca-Cola; the other
information comes later. Now, because he is the last idea we have here, we want
to start with him. "His original recipe contained cocaine." Okay. Regular
sentence; active voice. Why? Because we have John Pemberton, we want to continue
with John Pemberton. But, now, we want to introduce another new idea. Okay?
"Which is why the drink was named Coca-Cola." I want to bring the reader
back to my original subject: Coca-Cola. So, the passive is used for placement.
Where do you want to put your topics? Where do you want to put your subject?
Where do you want to put your object? Where do you want to put your agent, for
that matter? So, now, the last idea I'm speaking about is the name, Coca-Cola.
Remember; this is very important. "Today, Coca-Cola" — again, I'm talking
about the name; the product — "is a global brand". What is "a brand"? "A
brand" is basically a name. Right? You see how I connected the ideas? I kept
them close to each other. This is where you get flow. Okay? This is... makes it
easy for the reader to follow your ideas. If you have one idea here; and
then you talk about it again way down there, sometimes the reader can't make
the connection. You want to bring ideas that are similar — that are connected —
close together. "So, today, Coca-Cola is a global brand that is consumed by
millions of people." Now, here, I could say: "Coca-Cola is a global brand that
millions of people consume." But the millions of people, they're not
important. What is important is consumption. This is what you want to
focus on. So, what do you do? You put it in a passive; you bring it closer to
your original idea: Brand. This is the subject. This is another... well, this
is an adjective clause, really, but we're putting this closer to what the
brand is. The millions of consumers, the millions of people — not really
important. We don't care about them. Okay?
So, I hope you understand what I did here. I placed focus on the subject I
wanted to; I connected ideas together to create flow; and, most of all, I have
sentence variety. I don't say: "John Pemberton invented Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola
had cocaine. He named the drink Coca-Cola because of the cocaine."
Right? It's very, very boring; very blah —if you know what "blah" means. It means
boring. So, what do we do? We have variety, we have flow, we have focus —
everybody's happy. And who's the happiest? You, when you get your high
IELTS and TOEFL score. Okay? Great. Thank you very much for joining me
today. Please go to www.engvid.com. There's a quiz there for you, as usual.
And look at the other teachers' lessons; they're all very nice. Please come back
and visit us again. Thank you very much.