Dialogue

Vocabulary

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Lesson Transcript

Jonathan: In this lesson we’ll listen to a conversation between Mark and Sheila in the office and learn about using passive voice.
Dede: Mark and Sheila are having a conversation about ongoing legislation.
Jonathan: It’s a serious business topic, so they will be speaking professionally but not overly formally.
Dede: Alright, ready to go?
Jonathan: Let's listen to the conversation.
Dede:

Lesson conversation

Mark: Hey, Sheila, could you tell me what you know about this new tax bill?
Sheila: Well, it's an extension of the payroll tax cut. It was passed last time with bipartisan support, but this time it's more complicated.
Mark: How so? If I remember correctly, the bill was amended and a bunch of earmarks were added.
Sheila: Exactly, there were earmarks added by both parties while it was in committee. Two big earmarks—one funding a new military base in the Chairman's home state, and one for a big grant for a university in the ranking member's district were added.
Mark: Those greedy Representatives... Now it's gridlock I assume?
Sheila: Yes, Democrats and Republicans are refusing to give up on their projects, and the President has threatened to veto the bill if the earmarks aren't removed.
Mark: (Sigh) Business as usual, I'm afraid. Any idea how it will be resolved?
Sheila: Well, I think if they can remove the biggest earmarks, it won't be vetoed.
Mark: Yeah, the President will probably compromise on the smaller ones.
Sheila: It's just going to be difficult to get the Representatives to let go of their pet projects.
English Host: Let’s hear the conversation one time slowly.
Mark: Hey, Sheila, could you tell me what you know about this new tax bill?
Sheila: Well, it's an extension of the payroll tax cut. It was passed last time with bipartisan support, but this time it's more complicated.
Mark: How so? If I remember correctly, the bill was amended and a bunch of earmarks were added.
Sheila: Exactly, there were earmarks added by both parties while it was in committee. Two big earmarks—one funding a new military base in the Chairman's home state, and one for a big grant for a university in the ranking member's district were added.
Mark: Those greedy Representatives... Now it's gridlock I assume?
Sheila: Yes, Democrats and Republicans are refusing to give up on their projects, and the President has threatened to veto the bill if the earmarks aren't removed.
Mark: (Sigh) Business as usual, I'm afraid. Any idea how it will be resolved?
Sheila: Well, I think if they can remove the biggest earmarks, it won't be vetoed.
Mark: Yeah, the President will probably compromise on the smaller ones.
Sheila: It's just going to be difficult to get the Representatives to let go of their pet projects.
POST CONVERSATION BANTER
Dede: Politics are… complicated.
Jonathan: Very true. Democracy can be messy. Just as in any system of government, every Representative and Senator has their own interests that they try to take action on. This results in a lot of time in the House and Senate on what are essentially local or state issues. Representatives and Senators often add earmarks to bills to support projects from their areas.
Dede: Don’t they have their own governments to deal with those issues?
Jonathan: They do, that’s why many people want to eliminate earmarks. They feel that the national government and taxpayers should not pay for local projects. Of course, on the other hand, others believe that this system helps provide federal assistance to areas that cannot afford it themselves.
Dede: I guess that makes sense, but what happens when they disagree?
Jonathan: Well, especially when one party does not have a large majority, the minority party can slow down the actions of the majority party by opposing everything that they propose. This wastes a lot of time and is referred to as government or political gridlock.
Dede: That does not sound fun!
Jonathan: Oh, it’s not! It’s extremely frustrating and gives Washington D.C. a reputation of not being able to get anything done.
Dede: Kind of like you in the morning?
Jonathan: Well, at least until I have my morning coffee…
Dede: (laughs) want to move onto the vocab?
Jonathan: Sure!
Vocabulary and Phrases
Dede: Let's take a look at the vocabulary for this lesson.
: The first word we shall see is:
Jonathan: bill [natural native speed]
Dede: a proposed law or action being considered by Congress
Jonathan: bill [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: bill [natural native speed]
: Next:
Jonathan: bipartisan [natural native speed]
Dede: both Republican and Democratic parties together
Jonathan: bipartisan [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: bipartisan [natural native speed]
: Next:
Jonathan: earmark [natural native speed]
Dede: language inserted into a bill but unrelated to the bill that gives funding to a special project, usually in Congresspeople’s home states
Jonathan: earmark [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: earmark [natural native speed]
: Next:
Jonathan: chairman [natural native speed]
Dede: the head of a committee
Jonathan: chairman [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: chairman [natural native speed]
: Next:
Jonathan: amend [natural native speed]
Dede: to change a bill or other political document
Jonathan: amend [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: amend [natural native speed]
: Next:
Jonathan: ranking member [natural native speed]
Dede: the most senior member of committee from the party in the minority (with less than half the seats)
Jonathan: ranking member [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: ranking member [natural native speed]
: Next:
Jonathan: gridlock [natural native speed]
Dede: when no progress can be made because conflicting sides will not co-operate
Jonathan: gridlock [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: gridlock [natural native speed]
: Next:
Jonathan: veto [natural native speed]
Dede: a presidential action canceling a law that Congress passes
Jonathan: veto [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: veto [natural native speed]
: Next:
Jonathan: let go [natural native speed]
Dede: to release, to abandon, to leave alone
Jonathan: let go [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: let go [natural native speed]
: Next:
Jonathan: tax cut [natural native speed]
Dede: a reduction in taxes, an elimination or lowering of tax rates
Jonathan: tax cut [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: tax cut [natural native speed]
KEY VOCABULARY AND PHRASES
Dede: Let's have a closer look at the usuage for some of the words and phrases from this lesson.
Jonathan: The first word/phrase we’ll look at is....
Dede: Ok, that’s it for this lesson. Let’s take a look at two phrases from the dialogue.
Jonathan: Sure thing, what’s the first one?
Dede: “Well, it’s an extension of the pay-roll tax cut.”
Jonathan: As we learned from the vocab section, a tax cut is a reduction in taxes. The pay-roll tax cut is a particularly large tax-cut that lowers everybody’s taxes. It is very popular and, without it, everyone would have to pay a lot more out of every pay-check.
Dede: So if it is so popular, why is it difficult to extend it?
Jonathan: Good question. Sometimes, Congress tries to attach other items to the pay-roll tax cut extension bill. Because the tax cut is so popular, Congresspeople feel that if they attach their amendments to this bill, they will pass automatically.
Dede: So when they do that… it causes… gridlock?
Jonathan: Exactly, what’s our next phrase?
Dede: “It’s just going to be difficult to get the Representatives to let go of their pet projects.”
Jonathan: As we learned, “to let go” means to leave alone or abandon. A “pet project” is a project that someone pays an unusual amount of effort and attention to. Even if it is small, a Congressperson’s pet project may be the biggest issue for that individual. This makes them unwilling to ever “let go” of it. Often, pet projects are funded by earmarks and supported by the people from his or her home district or state.
Dede: Hmmm… I think that my pet project is making English learning fun and effective with EnglishClass101.com
Jonathan: That’s a pretty good one to have, I hope you never let go of it – and I don’t think it will even result in any gridlock!
Dede: I hope not. We’ll, let’s continue to prevent gridlock by moving forward with the grammar.
Jonathan: Sounds good!

Lesson focus

Dede: In this lesson, we will be focusing on using the passive voice.
Jonathan: Yup. Sheila said “It was passed last time with bipartisan support”
Dede: We usually prefer active voice when writing, but we will often hear passive voice in conversation, like Sheila used here.
Jonathan: Passive voice can be used with an explicit spoken subject or an implied unspoken subject but always utilizes the “to be” verb. When we have an explicit subject, we always use “by” to show who did the action. Want to give us some examples, Dede?
Dede: Sure, The bill was passed by the House and the Senate. The new telephone was made by Nokia. The pizza was eaten by a dog.
Jonathan: Great! In these cases, we know who did the action and can easily put them in active voice if we are confused by the meaning. How could we say “The bill was passed by the House and Senate” in active voice?
Dede: Uhm… "The House and Senate passed the bill?"
Jonathan: That’s right, what about “The pizza was eaten by a dog.”
Dede: I guess that would be “A dog ate the pizza”
Jonathan: Perfect! Having an explicit subject in the sentence makes it easy to understand the action. However, we often use the passive voice to express sentences with an implied, or unspoken, subject. Why don’t you give us some examples of that?
Dede: OK… The project was completed on time. The bank was robbed on Tuesday at around noon. The criminal was found hiding in an empty house.
Jonathan: In these three sentences, we cannot “know” who the subject is 100% but it'not so important. We use passive voice to emphasize the object of the sentence. Looking at these sentences, we are emphasizing the project’s completed status, the bank having been robbed, and the criminal having been found.
Dede: It is not so important who completed the report, who robbed the bank, or who found the criminal.
Jonathan: Right, usually we know the answer to these questions based on context surrounding the sentence. Let’s go back to Sheila’s comment.
Dede: Sheila said “It was passed last time with bipartisan support” during a conversation about the House and Senate’s actions.
Jonathan: In this case, based on context, we can understand that the subject of the sentence is “The House and Senate” and therefore could also express the sentences as “The House and Senate passed the bill last time with bipartisan support.”
Dede: However, because the emphasis of the sentence is that the bill was passed, we use passive voice to show this.
Jonathan: Try and avoid using passive voice when writing, but use it to sound natural when having conversations and emphasizing the object of action.
Jonathan: Try reviewing the examples here and in the dialogue to find more times where passive voice is used.
Dede: And I think with that, our lesson was completed.
Jonathan: Haha, well that’s a bit awkward. But you could say “Lesson 12 is finished.”
Dede: Great!

19 Comments

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EnglishClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 06:30 PM
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Hello Listeners! How do you change this passive sentence to "active voice"?

"The fund was doubled because of people lobbying their congressmen."

EnglishClass101.com Verified
Saturday at 08:26 PM
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Hello Tine,


Thanks for the ❤️️❤️️❤️️❤️️❤️️!!


We’re very happy to have you here.


If you ever have any questions, please let us know! 😉


Sincerely,

Éva

Team EnglishClass101.com

Tine
Friday at 11:18 AM
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❤️️❤️️❤️️❤️️❤️️

EnglishClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 06:19 PM
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Hello Marcelo,


You're welcome and thanks for taking the time to ask us your question. 👍


A 'pet project' is a project which is taken on and supported for personal reasons. An 'earmark' is an identifying feature.


I hope this is helpful to you. 😄👍


Sincerely,

Éva

Team EnglishClass101.com

Marcelo Cardoso
Tuesday at 07:02 AM
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Hi There , thanks for the Lesson !I do have on question for you ... Can I assume that 'pet project' has the same meaning as 'earmark' ?

EnglishClass101.com Verified
Saturday at 10:17 PM
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Hi there khalid,


You can do that easily in your Account settings, or by clicking on the Upgrade button in the top right corner of the site.

Regarding your email: did you send it to our email address at: contactus@EnglishClass101.com?


Kind regards,

Levente

Team EnglishClass101.com

khalid
Monday at 01:07 PM
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Good Morning; I sent an email related to how I can upgrade my member from premium to BLUS, but I didn't receive any feedback.

EnglishClass101.com Verified
Thursday at 07:17 AM
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Hello Ana Ramalheira,


Thank you for your comment. 😇

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

We wish you good luck with your language studies.


Kind regards,

Levente

Team EnglishClass101.com

Ana Ramalheira
Thursday at 05:45 AM
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👌🏽👌🏽👌🏽

EnglishClass101.com Verified
Sunday at 07:25 AM
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Hello Nyan Soe,


Thank you for your comment. 😇

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

We wish you good luck with your language studies.


Kind regards,

Levente

Team EnglishClass101.com

Nyan Soe
Sunday at 12:10 AM
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Because of people lobbying their congressmen,doubled the fund.