Passives at A2 and B1 levels

Using passives at A2 level

Currently, there is no evidence in the Cambridge Learner Corpus of the use of the passive at A1 level.

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At A2 level, learners have begun to use the passive to discuss familiar topics. They can, for example, use the passive affirmative with by to add information about something already known.

 It was bought by my uncle. (Key English Test; Chinese)

It’s made by Sony-Ericsson, I love it … (Key English Test; Italian)

It was written by an excellent author, Lev Tolstoy. (Key English Test; Russian)

Learners at A2 can use the past simple passive affirmative after a singular subject.

It was built in 1880. (Key English Test; Chinese)

On Saturday morning I was invited to a sports competition. (Key English Test; Indian)

They can also use the present simple passive affirmative with a singular subject.

The group is called “playmo”. (Key English Test; French)

I bought a T-shirt, it cost £42 because it is made of cotton. (Key English Test; Spanish — Latin American)

It is interesting to find that A2 learners, who have just been introduced to the present simple and past simple passive forms, are able to make natural and accurate use of them immediately. They can use a number of high-frequency passive expressions, such as be made by, be made of, be built, be invited toand be called, often with it as the subject. However, the sentences they produce are in the affirmative — there is no evidence in the Cambridge Learner Corpus at present of the use of present simple or past simple negative forms at A2.

Using the passive at B1 level

At B1 level, there is a great leap in learner ability to use this voice. In addition to the A2 uses, they are able to use a wider variety of verbs with a greater variety of passive forms.

B1 learners have the ability to use the present simple affirmative and negative with a range of pronoun and noun subjects. Note that the second and third examples shown below are from Business English exams, as are several of the other examples illustrated in the English Grammar Profile at this level. This reflects the more frequent use of the passive in Business writing, due to its more formal nature and the nature of the exam tasks set.

The walls are painted in a dark blue, and the floor is wood. (Cambridge English: Preliminary, Dutch)

Our office is situated near the airport. (Cambridge English: Business Preliminary; Spanish — Latin American)

I think we should replace the printer, because it prints very slowly and the sheets aren’t  printed properly. (Cambridge English: Business Preliminary; Swiss German)

B1 learners can use the past simple passive affirmative with a range of pronoun and noun subjects, both singular and plural. Although they use the affirmative form competently, there is no evidence at present of any significant use of the past simple passive negative.

It was written in a strange language that I tried to translate. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Spanish — Latin American)

Next day, I heard that my neighbour’s car was stolen. (Skills for Life entry level 3; Polish)

They filmed the flowers and trees, and some pupils were interviewed about their work in  the garden, too. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; German)

Learners at this level can also use the past simple passive affirmative with a limited range of verbs needing two objects, putting the indirect object in subject position.

So I was given a ticket for a train, running from Berlin to Munich. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; German)

We were lucky, because we were given another chance. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Serbian)

The CLC also reveals that at B1 level, learners are able to use the passive with by in more sophisticated ways. They can, for example, use it to give focus.

My school was chosen by the TV company because it is one of the newest in town.  (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Italian)

They can use the passive with by in a relative clause, often to add more information.

 I also like wearing clothes which are manufactured by famous brands. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Tamil)

 It’s the highest mountain in U.A.E. Special roads were built for people to reach the top of  the mountain, which was surrounded by houses. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Arabic — Gulf)

In addition, B1 learners are able to use the passive infinitive after a limited number of expressions including going to, have to, need to and want to.

 It is going to be shown this Friday. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Turkish)

After that, they printed an authorisation form, which had to be signed by my parents because  I’m not over eighteen. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Spanish — European)

He wants to be informed about sales development by the end of November 2001. (Cambridge English: Business Preliminary;  Swiss German)

They can accurately use the present continuous passive affirmative, although with a limited range of verbs.

Did you know that the next Harry Potter movie is being filmed in my school? (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Catalan)

Why don’t we stay at my house and visit Tokyo, where an interesting Japanese history exhibition is being held. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Japanese)

They filmed a class where the clothes are being tested at the moment and they interviewed  some people. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; German)

At B1 level, learners can now use the present continuous passive affirmative to refer to the future.

The seminar is being held at Chennai in the next week. (Cambridge English: Business Preliminary; Marathi)

We are being visited by our Sales Director on Thursday morning. (Cambridge English: Business Preliminary;  Portuguese — Brazil)

At present, however, there are no examples of the present continuous passive negative at B1 level. Although negative forms are taught at this level, they don’t seem to be produced until the B2 level. Similarly there is very little evidence that B1 learners are using passives with modal verbs, although again this is taught at this level. This might be an ‘opportunity of use’ issue, i.e. perhaps the students did not get the chance to use these structures in their exams because none of the exam tasks required them. An alternative interpretation could be that they find ways to avoid using these structures until B2, when they become more confident with passives.

Source —


Using music in the EFL Classroom

Music is an area of life that, regardless of age, character, gender or nationality, everyone can enjoy. It is also an invaluable learning tool. In a matter of fact, a large body of research points to the huge benefits music brings to language learning. Neurologists have found that musical and language processing occur in the same area of the brain, and there appear to be parallels in how musical and linguistic syntax are processed (Maess & Koelsch, 2001).

What are the advantages of using music in the classroom?

  1. It’s authentic, and thus, motivating
  2. Songs repeat a lot. Of vocabulary and grammar structures. Repetition aids recall.
  3. Good examples of colloquial English
  4. Do not follow the “inauthentic” grammar of many EFL coursebooks etc.
  5. Highlights features of pronunciation such as ellipsis and elision
  6. Enables teachers to teach culture and history
  7. Music is one of the biggest sources of English outside the classroom, if students enjoy these tasks, they may search out more music independently

This is not going to be a theoretical paper; As such, I’ll leave the theory to other papers and suggest sources at the end of this post if you are interested in learning more about the processes involved.

Listening and speaking activities

Through listening to music, students are exposed to the stretching and compacting of English speech and how intonation, stress and rhythm change the meaning of English in context. In Depeche Mode’s “Don’t you forget about me”, /t/ with initial word /y/ becoming /ch/ can be heard. There are many examples of such changes in pronunciation. This can be particularly useful for your students due to the phonetic differences between English and Russian. This ‘bottom-up’ processing not only improves your students’ pronunciation, but also their ability to comprehend both short and extended streams of native speech. Teachers can draw attention to these in class and drill them.

Comprehension questions and response sheets can be used to generate class discussion about a particular topic or even the song itself. An important part of language learning is for students to be able to feel that their feelings and opinions are understood.

Reading and Writing activities

Cloze Activities

Music can also be used to isolate particular grammar structures or vocabulary. Students’ attention can be drawn to these in the form of a cloze activity. Words can be deleted to practice a target grammar point, such as past tense verbs, prepositions, or compound nouns, or to identify key words (Griffee, 1990)

Lyrical strips

Lyrics can be cut into strips and put into order as the students hear the song. Following this, the students check their answers by listening to the song again and mumbling or miming along to the song.


With short songs, students can write down all the words that they hear. They can then try to piece together the lyrics of the song with a partner. Afterwards, the teacher hands out the lyrics sheet for them to check.

Story Telling

With songs that tell a story (and let’s face it, that’s most of them), students can either retell the story to a partner, covering reported speech and supporting conversational abilities or write a written response. For example, many songs contain stories where a husband/or wife has been unfaithful. Students could write a response letter refuting the allegations etc.

Vocabulary and Grammar activities

Cloze activities

Again, the traditional EFL activity of putting words into gaps in the text can be used to draw attention to particular language items. Personally, I like to follow these pieces of vocabulary up with discussion questions.

Giving clues

Example: Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison

Hey where did we go,

Days when the rains came

Down in the hollow,

Playin’ a new game,

Laughing and a running hey, hey

Skipping and a jumping

In the misty morning fog with

Our hearts a thumpin’ and you

My brown eyed girl,

You my brown eyed girl.

Find the following collocations and expressions.

  1. A question about where you went with someone.

[Where did we go?]

  1. A question about what became of something that existed in the past.

[Whatever happened to…?]

  1. A collocation to describe someone‟s physical appearance.

[brown eyed]

  1. An expression for where something is that cannot be seen.

[Hiding behind a… ]

(Ken Lackman Lexical Approach activities

What did you hear?

Write some vocabulary on the board (some in the song, some not). Students listen to the song and circle the words they hear.


This can be used to isolate a piece of lexis. However, it can also be used to isolate a grammar structure or a pronunciation feature that you want to teach. Students simply stand up from their seats when they hear this piece of language in the song.

Build it in!

Personally, I think songs have too often been relegated to the “Friday afternoon” slot in lessons. When you’ve come to the end of a unit of a book, or just want a quick and easy way to reinforce a language point. That’s all well and good, but music can also be used as the centre of a lesson.

Choosing a song for your learners

  • Ensure the language is appropriate for your learners. Be aware of problems with metaphors
  • Ensure the lyrics are clear and not drowned out by music
  • Ensure the content of the song is appropriate and not explicit or offensive.

Further Reading

Adamowski, E. (1997). The ESL songbook. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press

Bechtold, J. (1983). Musical ESL. TESL Talk, 14, 180-184.

Domoney, L. & Harris, S. (1993). Justified and ancient: Pop music in EFL classrooms.ELT Journal, 47, 234-241

Griffee, D.T. (1992). Songs in action. Herfordshire, England: Phoenix ELT

Moriya, Y. (1988). English speech rhythm and its teaching to non-native speakers.Paper presented at the annual convention of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. Chicago. (ED No. 303 033)

Rauscher, F. H., Shaw, G., & Ky, K. (1993). Mozart and spatial reasoning. Nature,(365) 611.

Matt Vesty for Accent Language Center

The Byrds — Turn! Turn! Turn! — song & exercises

«Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is a Season)» — often abbreviated to «Turn! Turn! Turn!» — is a song written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s. The lyrics, except for the title which is repeated throughout the song, and the final verse of the song, are adapted word-for-word from Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes, set to music and recorded in 1962. The song was originally released as «To Everything There Is a Season» on The Limeliters‘ album Folk Matinee and then some months later on Seeger’s ownThe Bitter and the Sweet.

Below are a few exercises connected with this song.

  1. Listen to the song. Do you like it? What do you think is the style of the song?
  2. Before you listen again, read the lyrics (you will fill in the gaps later). Do you know what the words in bold mean? You may check yourself with the help of an online dictionary, for example, Cambridge Learner Dictionary.

To everything — turn, turn, turn
There is a season — turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be ____, a time to die
A time to _____, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to _____, a time to weep

To everything — turn, turn, turn
There is a season — turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to build _____, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

To everything — turn, turn, turn
There is a season — turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time of love, a time of _____
A time of war, a time of _____
A time you _____ embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

To everything — turn, turn, turn
There is a season — turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to _____
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late!

  1. Now listen to the song again and fill in the gaps (you can find the complete lyrics here).
  2. Match the words on the right with prepositions and adverbs they are used with on the left.
    • Purpose
    • Cast
    • Gather
    • Refrain
    • Gain
    • Sew
    • Of
    • About
    • On
    • For
    • Away
    • Together
    • From
    • To
    • By
    • Now fill in the gaps in these sentences:The Economist must refrain ________ doing this dirty work like British colonialists. Please refrain ____________ smoking in this area.
      When the Apple iPad was released, many believed there was no purpose ______________ the gadget. Why did people need a huge device that was identical to their mobile phone? It didn’t even make phone calls!
      The American economy saw a gain _____________ 14 cents last week and 20 cents a week before that, a positive for Mr Obama.
      I try to cast ________ such thoughts, but still from time to time I get an impression that we shouldn’t do this job.
      She will use scraps of material and sew them ________ into different things.
      They will gather ________ in the open air, singing, dancing, and telling stories.Select the following black part to see the answers: from / from / for / of / away / together / together
    • Write your own sentences with these word combinations.
  3. Answer the questions:
    What is the main idea behind the song? Do you agree with it?
    Do you know any other songs that carry the same message? Do you like any of them?
    Can the message of this song be applied to the current situation in the world?
  4. Now imagine you are taking part in the president elections in your country. Write 3-5 election campaign promises using «(It’s) time to …» stucture, e.g. now is a time to crack down on crime.

If you want to improve your English, you can also have both online and offline lessons in Accent Language Center.

Meet a “possible” new Modal Verb in English: Set to

  • She said she is upset the case looks set to drag on in court for months to come.
  • The meeting was set to address the 2009 International Property Maintenance Code.
  • Looks like Apple is set to be the butt of some cruel jokes over the coming days.
  • Both universities are set to approve their proposals for raising fees next week.
  • The 2010 General Election is set to be one of the most important in our history
  • The final regulations are set to be adopted by the Board of Education next week

Further proof that English is dynamic. Not too many years ago, the phrase ‘set to’ was very much a metaphor (albeit a common one) in English. Its popularity has increased so much, particularly in journalistic English, that we could consider it a new future auxiliary, meaning “to be ready to”. Originally, this metaphor was used only in relation to people; however, as the examples above show, it can now be used with processes or things in general.

You and I / You and me: Mistakes and changes in modern British English

All people, including native speakers, make mistakes in the language (most commonly in speaking). These mistakes sometimes become part of the language itself. Language is never static and is always changing.

Standard English

In fact, English is like most other languages in the world, it’s the result of some historical event, purely accidental. If in the 9th Century the Vikings had been victorious in their war with King Alfred, Britain, and English, would have been very different.


Dialect is not for those who are ‘uneducated’ or spoken by ‘lazy’ people who never studied grammar. The only difference between standard English and any other dialect of English is that it is used for official purposes in government and law etc. All dialects are unique and have their own historical background. The Black Country accent for example, in the West Midlands, is one of Britain’s oldest and can be traced back to Early Modern English, spoken in the 1600s.

Differences in use

Many people argue that there is only one ‘correct’ version of the language and those who use the others are making mistakes:

‘Correct’ form ‘Mistakes’
John and I went to the cinema John and me went to the cinema
They’re different from us They’re different to us
Fewer people Less people
Somebody’s dropped his or her keys Somebody’s dropped their keys
I’m unemployed at present I’m unemployed presently

In fact, these ‘mistakes’ have been found in use of English for centuries, and are not wrong. Be warned, however, that some of them are more informal and would be out of place in a formal setting.

You and I

We often use the object from of a pronoun in double subjects in colloquial speech.

“Barry and me are going to the pub this weekend”.

And sometimes, we use subject forms in double objects

I often think of the old days and how you helped Bernie and I. (Example taken from letter of Queen Elizabeth)

There are also examples of me in a double subject in Jane Austen’s novels.


The accepted preposition for ‘different’ is ‘from’, however in Britain, ‘to’ is often used.

American football is different from/to soccer.

We also sometimes use than, which is very common in American English

The shirt is different than I expected.


Standard less is used only with uncountable nouns, it is the comparative form of little. Fewer is the comparative form of few and usually goes with countable nouns

I have less time to complete my homework now!

I have fewer videos than I used to have.

In an informal style, however less is commonly placed before countable and uncountable nouns. Some people feel quite passionately about this and consider it a mistake.



When people consider the examples above ‘wrong’ they are being prescriptive. What this means is that rules are made by people who think that they can protect a language from change. These often have very little effect on the language, which changes anyway, of course. Be careful of too many prescriptive rules, they often give false information about the language.

How do ‘mistakes’ enter the language?

When someone makes a mistake in their speech it might influence the person they are talking to. Sometimes, this mistake spreads and becomes part of the language and no longer becomes a mistake. For example the phrase ‘oblivious of’ used to mean ‘forgetful of’ but now is used to mean ‘unconscious of’.

How else does language change?

  • Languages simplify themselves

Usually, languages tend to simplify themselves over time, for English speakers it is quite common to ‘balance’ both clauses of the conditional. This is incredibly common in speech and most people probably don’t believe they say it!

“If I’d have gone to the party, I’d have called you”

  • Dialects influence each other.

Some dialects have a huge influence on the other: American on British, for example. It is now rather common for British people to say:

“Can I get a can of coke?” as opposed to the more standard form “Could I have a can of coke?”

  • Sometimes the differences aren’t important

It’s quite common for speakers to confuse forms in speech. So don’t worry so much about getting the correct form of sink/sank/sunk and lay/laid etc.

“He wrote 8 operas, all of which sunk without trace” (BBC Radio 4)

Some other changes

  • Who is replacing whom.

Who do you trust?” (1992 Election slogan)

  • Shall and should as first-person have been replaced by Will and Would

We will be in touch soon

  • Subjunctive were is not as common as it used to be

If I was ten years younger, I’d do the job myself

  • Some adverbs are dropping –ly

You pronounced it wrong

  • Some American prepositional uses and phrasal verbs are being used

The trains will not run due to engineering work on weekends

We met with our friends yesterday

I spoke with Brian at the meeting

  • Past Simple preferred to Present perfect with Just and Already

I just left home

I already said to you before!

So what should I study?

For most of you, it is best that you study one of the standard models like British or American English. Neither of them are better or more correct than the other, and they are understood everywhere. The differences between them are generally insignificant.

Some and any

We tend to think that we use some in positive sentences and any in negative sentences and in questions, right? Well, that’s not strictly correct. This “rule” is only the most common use of “some” and “any”.

Look at these sentences, which are correct?

I like some newspapers

I don’t like some newspapers

I like any newspapers

I don’t like any newspapers

That’s right, all of them! So what do “some” and “any” really mean? Well the difference is meaning, not grammar.

Let’s take our sentences about the newspapers. Let’s imagine that this chart represents all of the newspapers in the world.

blue circle

The newspapers I like are in blue

I like any newspaper
I like any newspaper
I like some newspapers
I like some newspapers
I don't like some newspapers
I don’t like some newspapers
I don't like any newspapers
I don’t like any newspapers

So, we can see that some divides something into parts, but any is about all or none.

Аукцион ошибок

Цель: работа над ошибками

Необходимые материалы: типичные ошибки группы или типичные для текущего уровня; напечатанные деньги.

Уровень: любой

Процедура:  Каждому студенту выдаётся определённая сумма импровизированных денег. Затем преподаватель зачитывает предложение с ошибкой и называет её минимальную стоимость, а каждый из участников аукциона может увеличивать её настолько, насколько считает нужным. Предложивший наивысшую цену получает право найти ошибку и назвать правильный вариант. Если его версия и в самом деле оказывается верной, он сохраняет свои деньги и получает в свою «собственность» исправленную им ошибку. В противном случае, когда студент не может назвать действительно правильный вариант, он теряет свои деньги. Побеждает тот, кто смог «купить» наибольшее число ошибок.

Игру можно проводить в групповом формате, выдавая одну сумму на группу студентов и давая им возможность обсудить варианты исправления предложений с партнёрами по команде.