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Lesson Transcript

Jonathan: Hello! Jonathan here.
Dede: And Dede here too! American Politics as Usual.
Jonathan: In this lesson, you will learn how to explain a somewhat complicated political process using active voice.
Dede: This conversation takes place at work between Mark and Sheila. Sheila is a bit confused about why something happened and Mark is explaining it to her.
Jonathan: The language is a bit formal but not too stuffy.
Dede: Let’s listen to the conversation!
Sheila: I don’t understand. Why did we abandon the bill?
Mark: There was no possibility that Congress could pass it.
Sheila: What do you mean? We have a majority in the House and the Senate!
Mark: That’s true, but our majority isn’t filibuster-proof.
Sheila: But the bill already survived the House! We worked really hard to pass it!
Mark: I know, I know… but the fact of the matter is we don’t have 60 votes in the Senate.
Sheila: (sighs) But we aren’t even trying to get it through!
Mark: Leadership said that they would filibuster any legislation that even smells like a tax hike. It would be a waste of time.
Sheila: Ugh… it’s just so frustrating!
Mark: Chill out Sheila! You still have a job! It’ll be OK!
Sheila: I know… I just put a lot of effort into that bill; it’s sad to see that it was for naught.
Dede: So Jonathan, the Senate and the House of the United States Congress have a lot of differences.
Jonathan: Right. Historically, the Senate is smaller and usually the Senators have had more personal relationships with each other, which has allowed more bi-partisan work to get done.
Dede: Because of its small size and relative flexibility, the rules for debate and discussion are very different.
Jonathan: In the House, there is a specific amount of time that each Representative can talk about a bill and they cannot use more than their own time.
Dede: However, in the Senate, every Senator is allowed to speak as long as he or she desires and it takes 60 (out of 100) votes to stop debate on a bill.
Jonathan: In the House, a simple majority can stop discussion, but the Senate requires 60%. A Senator can talk without stopping in order to stop a bill from being passed, a strategy known as “filibustering”.
Dede: Until recently, Senators rarely used this tactic, but now it seems as if almost every action by Congress must be approved by 60 votes in the Senate.
Jonathan: The listeners must feel that we are filibustering them by now though!
Dede: (laughs) Yeah! Let’s move onto the vocabulary!
Dede: Let's take a look at the vocabulary for this lesson.
The first word we shall see is:
Jonathan: to abandon [natural native speed]
Dede: to leave, to allow to die, to ignore
Jonathan: to abandon [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: to abandon [natural native speed]
Jonathan: possibility [natural native speed]
Dede: chance, opportunity
Jonathan: possibility [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: possibility [natural native speed]
Jonathan: filibuster [natural native speed]
Dede: a legislative strategy in the Senate that prevents a bill from being passed by not allowing debate to end on a bill
Jonathan: filibuster [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: filibuster [natural native speed]
Jonathan: -proof [natural native speed]
Dede: resistant to something
Jonathan: -proof [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: -proof [natural native speed]
Jonathan: to survive [natural native speed]
Dede: to live through, to persist after
Jonathan: to survive [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: to survive [natural native speed]
Jonathan: fact [natural native speed]
Dede: true statement, actuality
Jonathan: fact [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: fact [natural native speed]
Jonathan: to smell like [natural native speed]
Dede: to appear to be
Jonathan: to smell like [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: to smell like [natural native speed]
Jonathan: tax hike [natural native speed]
Dede: a raise in taxes
Jonathan: tax hike [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: tax hike [natural native speed]
Jonathan: naught [natural native speed]
Dede: nothing
Jonathan: naught [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: naught [natural native speed]
Jonathan: to chill [natural native speed]
Dede: to cool down
Jonathan: to chill [slowly - broken down by syllable]
Jonathan: to chill [natural native speed]
Dede: Well that’s all the words from this lesson. Let’s take a closer look at two of the phrases we saw.
Jonathan: Why don’t you get us started?
Dede: The first one is "smells like", which in this context means that something appears to be like something else.
Jonathan: Mark says “they would filibuster any legislation that even smells like a tax hike”..Even if it is not exactly the same, if they share characteristics or traits, we can use the term “smells like”.
Dede: We have to be careful though, because usually it is not a positive indication.
Jonathan: That’s right. Okay, what’s next?
Dede: Mark tells Sheila to “Chill out”.
Dede: This is a slang way to tell someone to relax. It is quite informal and suggests that they “cool down”.
Jonathan: Yeah, like the time I got really excited about that new video game and wouldn’t stop talking about it.
Dede: (Laughs) Yeah, I told you to chill out!
Jonathan: You did!
Alright then, I think that brings us to…
Dede: My favorite part!!!
Jonathan: Hey chill out, it’s just the grammar!
Dede: (laughs) Okay, well, let’s start!

Lesson focus

Dede: The focus of this lesson is using active voice.
Jonathan: Mark says “There was no possibility that Congress could pass it.”
Dede: Quite a while ago, we discussed the use of passive voice when we are emphasizing the object of action rather than the actor.
Jonathan: We did say then, however, that active voice is a much more common and clear way of communicating.
Dede: When we are writing, it is almost always preferable to use active voice rather than passive voice. Using active voice allows the reader or listener greater clarity about the actor and the action.
Jonathan: Unlike with passive voice, which can use an implied subject, active voice always clearly states the actor. Let’s look at some examples of converting passive phrases into active ones
Dede: The bill was passed by Congress.
Jonathan: We could rephrase this by saying…
Dede: Congress passed the bill.
Jonathan: Yep!
Dede: What about “The wedding cake is being eaten by the dog.”
Jonathan: We could say “The dog is eating the wedding cake.”
Dede: It is pretty clear in these examples who or what is doing the action, so it is not so difficult for us to convert the phrases into active voice.
Jonathan: However, in other situations, passive voice does not use a subject and it is more difficult to convert into active voice.
Dede: In this case, it is best to ask who or what did the action and then make an active phrase.
Jonathan: Like the phrase…
Dede: "The computer was repaired."
Jonathan: We should ask who repaired the computer.
Dede: An IT company of course!
Jonathan: Oh ok, so in active voice, we can say, “An IT company repaired the computer.”
Dede: Right! How about one more?
Jonathan: Okay! “The test is being given out to the students”
Dede: Who is giving out the test?
Jonathan: Hmm, the teacher, I guess.
Dede: Great, so we can say “The teacher is giving out the test to the students."
Jonathan: Sometimes we have a situation where we know that an object has had an action done to it, but we are not sure who or what exactly did it.
Dede: In these cases, it is sometimes best to leave the sentence in passive voice.
Jonathan: However, we can make an active voice phrase by using “something” or ”someone” as the subject of the sentence.
Dede: Right! Like when the rice in my cabinet was being eaten!
Jonathan: Yeah, you don’t know what was eating it so you could say…
Dede: "Something was eating the rice in my cabinet."
Jonathan: Or when we were talking about the wheel.
Dede: Yeah, the wheel was invented thousands of years ago.
Jonathan: But we don’t know who, so we can say…
Dede: "Someone invented the wheel thousands of years ago."
Jonathan: Using someone or something is not ideal as it makes you seem a bit like you don’t know what you are talking about.
Dede: When writing, especially for a work or academic situation, be sure to do your best and get the information as much as you can to use active voice appropriately.
Jonathan: But if you can’t understand it, use a “some” word or if it sounds strange you can leave it in passive voice.


Dede: I think that finishes it up!
Jonathan: We hoped you enjoyed this lesson. Until next time!
Dede: See you soon!