Passive voice activities

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The English passive voice often has adversative uses, i.e., describing unexpected and unfortunate events (as well as for non-adverstative events). It is often adversative in other languages, and in some languages like Chinese, it is primarily adverstative. So it won't be too hard for students to use it contextually for describing adversative situations, given the situation and vocabulary.

1 Insurance Claims

1.1 Introduction

This is a communicative activity for the English passive voice, particularly in the past tense. The passive voice tends to be used for adverse events, and so describing bad events for purposes of filing insurance claims (or police reports as well) can be useful activities. Teachers will need to provide handouts with scenarios and useful vocabulary. This can also be used for teaching cultural knowledge, such as what do do in a robbery in your country; what tornadoes and severe storms in the US are like; or what earthquakes are like and what to do during a quake.

This can be adapted to different levels, and can be used for the regular be-passive (my house was flattened by the tornado) and the get-passive (my house got flattened). The get-passive tends to be more colloquial, and is often used for adverse and/or unexpected events, as well as events that may be partly due to the subject's responsibility (self-involvement). For example, in the sentence Bubba got arrested last night can mean that his arrest was unexpected and of course adverse; but it could also imply that Bubba was partly or wholly responsible due to his behavior. The self-involvement meaning is more unambiguous in the reflexive Bubba got himself arrested last night.

1.2 Instructions

Be prepared to explain to your insurance agent about your particular disaster(s):

  1. What happened to your house in the tornado?
  2. What happened to your car in the accident?
  3. What happened to your boat during the hurricane, captain?
  4. What happened to your apartment in the burglary? (Let's assume that your thieves aren't too lazy or gentle.)
  5. What happened to your crops during the heat wave and drought? (farmer)
  6. What happened to your home during the blizzard?
  7. What happened to your home during the flood?
  8. What happened to your office during the earthquake? (office manager)
  9. What happened to your valuables during the robbery?
  10. What happened to your airplane in the bad weather? (pilot)
  11. What kind of accident happened to you in your lab?
  12. What kind of accident happened to you while you were walking down the street? (pedestrian)

A few possible verbs:

  • strike, hit, beat
  • demolish, destroy, ruin
  • blow (away, apart)
  • [to] total [= to totally destroy a vehicle]
  • burn, scorch, dry (up), parch
  • flatten, smash, crush