Tag Archives: study

453. The 36 Questions that Lead to Love (with Amber & Paul)

Listen to Amber, Paul and me answering questions designed by psychologists to help couples or friends become closer and more intimate.

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Hello, welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast, this podcast for learners of English hosted by me Luke Thompson. Hi.

The general idea of this podcast is to help you to improve your English by providing you with content to keep you listening regularly, for longer periods of time, to authentic English as it really is spoken. Sometimes I teach you things on the podcast and other times I play conversations for you to follow, like in this episode.

This episode is entitled 36 Questions that Lead to Love

In this one you’re going to hear the tangential trio of Amber, Paul and me talking about this set of 36 questions, which was compiled by a group of psychologists as part of a study into ‘interpersonal closeness’ or intimacy between people.

Amber first found out about it in a podcast published by the New York Times. Here’s what the NYTimes website says about this study, which is where the 36 questions come from.

The study by the psychologist Arthur Aron (and others) explores whether intimacy between two strangers can be accelerated by having them ask each other a specific series of personal questions. The 36 questions in the study are broken up into three sets, with each set intended to be more probing than the previous one.

The idea is that mutual vulnerability helps to create closeness and intimacy. To quote the study’s authors, “One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal and personal self-disclosure.” Allowing oneself to be vulnerable with another person can be exceedingly difficult, so this exercise forces the issue.

The questions are now used to help build intimacy or personal closeness typically between couples that want to fall in love, but also between anyone looking for ways of finding out more about each other and developing a closer or deeper relationship.

Amber’s going to tell you more about it in a moment.

These 36 questions are available for you to use or read online at NYTimes.com https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/modern-love/36-questions/

In this episode you’ll hear Amber, Paul and me asking each other those questions.

Let’s see what happens.

  • Will the questions bring us closer together?
  • To what extent will the intimacy level rise?
  • Will they make us fall in love with each other?
  • Or will we just learn weird truths about each other that will disturb us, ultimately causing us to drift apart as friends, and then they’ll never appear on this podcast again?
  • Will these questions help you get to know us more?
  • What could be revealed by this set of questions designed by psychologists to become more and more intimate as they go?
  • Is it possible for 3 British friends to take the whole thing seriously enough for the questions to have the intended effect?

Listen on to find out more.

Here we go…


OK so if you were counting the questions you’ll see that we skipped some but that’s our choice isn’t it!

I think, on balance, we probably did become slightly closer than before. There were some particularly revealing moments there where Paul was talking about his lack of confidence in social situations, which is a bit of a surprise considering how I often observe him showing no obvious signs of social awkwardness.

Of course, we didn’t take it all completely seriously. For example, you’re supposed to stare into each other’s eyes at the end of the questions, for four minutes, but that wouldn’t have been particularly interesting for you to listen to.

All the questions are available on the NY Times website – here https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/modern-love/36-questions/

So check them out and use them yourselves – either on a date, with friends, or with your language partners or language groups.

They could provide a nice way for you to practise talking about feelings and personal thoughts in English.

And, if you fall in love with someone as a result, that’s a nice bonus isn’t it!?

If you’ve fallen in love with Amber’s voice and you’re wondering when Amber’s podcast is coming out – it’s not ready yet and I will announce it on the podcast as soon as it is online. It takes a long time to get these things ready – getting your head around the technology, writing, recording, working out how to publish, building a website, setting up your podcast feed, getting on the iTunes store and all of that stuff – it takes time and it’s not as easy as you might think, so just hold your horses for a bit, it’s on its way.


357. Learning Languages with Olly Richards

In this episode I’m talking to Olly Richards the polyglot from England. Our conversation covers points about what accent you should learn to speak with, the importance of developing clear pronunciation and effective communication in English, using Periscope to listen to native English speakers and the physical side of learning a language. See below for a transcript to the introduction, more information and links to Olly’s work.

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Introduction Transcript

Olly Richards, the polyglot from England, is on the podcast again today. This is the second time I’ve spoken to him on this podcast. The first time was back in February I believe. [A bit about how to say “February”] That’s episode 332. If you haven’t heard that one, I recommend that you go into the archives, find it (or click here) and listen to it because it’ll give you some good context for this one and also it’s just really useful for English learning because it contains loads of good advice and lots of motivation.

Olly is a great guest for this podcast because he basically spends his time learning languages and helping other people to learn languages too. Olly has managed to learn lots of languages including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic and Cantonese and he learned them all in adulthood, not as a child. That’s quite an achievement and he’s managed to do it using some pretty clever strategies, techniques and routines which we can all apply to our language learning too.

Now, I’ve arranged to speak to Olly over Skype in just a few minutes so I’m just gearing myself up for the conversation now. I’m getting my Skype settings correct. Last week I saw him briefly on Periscope talking about a recent work-related trip to LA and how the trip had affected his language learning routine and it sounded very interesting so I sent him a message saying “Hi Olly, I saw you on Periscope the other day – Do you fancy coming on the podcast soon for a catch up?” and he quickly replied by saying “I’d LOVE to come back on the podcast. I could do podcasts all day long, and especially yours since it’s so much fun.” So that’s that. It’s all been set up.

We haven’t done much preparation for this beyond just setting a time for the conversation. The idea is that we’re going to just catch up on his recent news, see where the conversation takes us and ultimately share more conclusions and tips about language learning.

Oh, there’s just one last thing. Do you remember in our last conversation that Olly asked me to make a commitment about my French learning? I promised that I would practice for 10 minutes a day. Also, I seem to remember a number of you made commitments about your learning in the comments section and I wonder if you’ve kept up with them. Well, honestly – I haven’t been the greatest student because I haven’t kept my promise. Yeah, I know, I know. To be fair, I did go out and buy some self study materials which I chose very carefully and I started with the best of intentions, but I only did a few pages and then got out of the habit of doing it. So, I feel a bit bad about that and I wonder if he’s going to bring it up. I think he probably will, but let’s see. Now, my French has definitely improved recently but the rate of improvement is just not good enough and I need to pull my socks up and turn over a new leaf and adding some daily practice into my routine would definitely help. Anyway, let’s see if he brings it up.

Now though, it’s time to talk to Olly Richards the polyglot from England. Here we go.

*Conversation Starts*

We talk about…

  • His trip to the USA
  • How accents change when people travel to different places (e.g. when Brits go to the USA their accents ‘accommodate’ to the local accents a bit, and vice versa)
  • The relationship between accents and our identity
  • Accent reduction vs learning clear pronunciation
  • The physical side of learning a language. Is it normal to experience any physical pain when practising your speaking
  • The importance of engaging in conversations in English to improve your effectiveness in communication – italki is a good way to do this

Click here to check out italki – www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk


  • Download the Periscope App here https://www.periscope.tv
  • Olly’s website: http://www.Iwillteachyoualanguage.com
  • Olly’s book of short stories on Amazon NOW AVAILABLE!
  • Kindle: http://amzn.to/1Ys8HSH
  • Paperback: http://amzn.to/1Udvsd1

Now, I’m going to have my lunch. Cheers!


19. Passive Verb Forms

Luke’s English Podcast is for people learning English as a foreign language. This episode is about passive verb forms, their use and pronunciation. You can read a transcript below.

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Luke’s English Podcast is for people learning English as a foreign language. This episode is about passive verb forms, their use and pronunciation. You can read a transcript below.

Hello, welcome to Luke’s English Podcast. It’s been ages and ages since I last did one. I’ve been really busy with lots of things, but mainly: my music (I’m in two bands at the moment – The school band is playing a concert at Brook Green Hotel in Shepherds Bush on Friday 14th August, and my cousin’s band Neech are playing the Big Chill Festival this Saturday. I’m playing drums in both bands. ) So, I’ve been busy practising with those bands.

Also, I’ve been teaching general English summer courses at my school. They’re usually very busy because we have lots of students in the school, and the teachers have to write their own material- we don’t use books. So, I’ve been using all my energy on music and work. Anyway, now I have some time to do a Podcast.

Hello to everyone who has sent me a message – I don’t have time to name you all. The Podcast is becoming more and more popular. I’m getting messages via email, Twitter, and my comments box on the webpage. If you’re listening on iTunes, go to my site to read a transcript of everything in this podcast. I’m being very generous today and I’m providing a whole transcript! Don’t forget, if you’re a rich Russian business man, or a Saudi oil sheik, you can send me money as a donation – about 2million would be nice. That should be enough to help me make a few more podcasts before I retire to the carribean. Actually, I have made absolutely NO money from this podcast, and at the moment I’m doing it just for the love.

Now, there is useful stuff in this podcast. You’re going to learn about:

Exactly how and why we use passive forms.

Some pronunciation of passive forms.

There will be real examples. The grammar will be carefully explained.

I will provide pronunciation drills – sentences in British English for you to copy and help your accurate speaking.

That’s it – enjoyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!

STOP – grammar time.

That’s right, it’s grammar time ladies and gentlemen, and this grammar point is about Passive Forms

At higher levels, the study of grammar becomes more in depth and as a result of this, it becomes a lot more theoretical and complicated. So, it becomes difficult to understandand sometimes boring. I’m sure you’ve all had those boring grammar classes in which you don’t really understand anything, and just make you fall asleep. However, in order to get a full understanding of how the language works and why mistakes are made etc, grammar has to be studied. Using a range of grammatical forms is also a feature of good, fluent, advanced speaking.

This brings us to passive forms. They are used a lot in English. Honestly, they are. In my opinion, there are 3 difficult things for students to deal with when studying the passive:

1) The complicated form – it is hard to manipulate sentences using the passive in different tenses, and after modal verbs etc ( this is because of all the different auxiliary verbs, past participles etc).

2) Understanding how and why the passive is used. Many students say they know how to construct passive sentences, but don’t know when they should use them.

3) The pronunciation of passive forms – it can be difficult to hear all the little words used when native speakers use passive forms. Also, it’s difficult to pronounce them correctly if you’re not a native speaker.

In this podcast I’m going to talk about the passive form, why it is used and the pronunciation of sentences with a variety of passive forms. Later in this podcast you will hear some pronunciation drills which you can (and should) use to develop your pron.

What are passive forms? (point 1)

I am not going to go into great depth about this area. You can look at the back of your textbook or in a good grammar book to look at how the passive form changes in different tenses and after certain verbs. Nevertheless, here is a basic overview of what passive forms are:

Active sentences are in this structure:


E.g. Michael Jackson – wrote – this song

The subject is the agent (the thing that ‘does’ the verb)

The agent is included because it is important, or is the topic of the sentence (e.g. if the question is “who wrote this song?” it is important to say “Michael Jackson wrote it”)

But, sometimes it is better to order the sentence in a different way. Like this passive sentence:


E.g. The song – was written – (by Michael Jackson)

In passive sentences:

The form is different – You always have an auxiliary verb ‘be’ – this can come in many forms, eg. Being, been, was, were, am, are, is

The agent is often not included

If the agent is included, you have to use a preposition (by)

You need to use a past participle verb, and these are sometimes difficult to remember

Why is the passive used? (point 2)

It is sometimes thought that passives are not necessary. “Why bother using them?”. Some students say that they don’t think native speakers use them – and that teachers teach them just because they have to. Some students just don’t use passive forms in their sentences, which is one of the reasons why they don’t go beyond an intermediate level. One thing I can say for sure is that when teachers teach grammar forms – they do it because they are essential for the imporovement of your English. Don’t forget – advanced speakers use a variety of grammatical forms and vocabulary…

They are used a lot, and they are useful. But, why? and how?

Here’s a list of reasons why the passive is used:

  • The agent is unknown (“What happened to the pizza?” “It was eaten” “by who? “we don’t know”)
  • The agent is not important (“I don’t care who did it, I’m just angry that my pizza was eaten! I was going to eat it later!”)
  • The agent is obvious (The thief was arrested -obviously it was the police because they usually do that)
  • The process (the action of the verb) is more important than the agent (the one who did it) “I’m just annoyed that my pizza has been eaten already – I didn’t even get a chance to have any”
  • The patient (the pizza – it receives the action of the verb) is the topic of the sentence or story, so it is put at the beginning.

Real Examples: BBC News Report

OK, listen to the following news story about Michael Jackson’s death. It contains 10 passive forms, but in complex tenses. Can you find them. Before you listen, let me explain these words:

Paramedics – Doctors who drive ambulances!

Beverly Hills – An area in California where lots of famous people live

Suffer a cardiac arrest – to have a heart attack

To be due to do something – to be arranged to happen. It is going to happen because it is planned

To resuscitate someone – to bring someone to life – using electricity, or breathing or pumping the chest

A post-mortem – a medical examination of a body after it has died

So, there are 10 passive forms. Can you find them?

Pop star Michael Jackson has died in Los Angeles, aged 50.

Paramedics were called to the singer’s Beverly Hills home at about midday on Thursday after he stopped breathing.

He was pronounced dead two hours later at the UCLA medical centre.

Jackson, who had a history of health problems, had been due to perform a series of comeback concerts in the UK, beginning on 13 July. He is believed to have suffered a cardiac arrest.

Speaking on behalf of the Jackson family, Michael’s brother Jermaine said doctors had tried to resuscitate the star for more than an hour without success.

Jackson’s body was flown from UCLA to the LA County Coroner’s office, where a post-mortem was carried out. The results have not yet been published.

Concerns over Michael’s health were raised last month when four of Jackson’s planned comeback concerts were postponed, but organisers insisted the dates had been moved due to the difficulty of organising the show.

Find examples of the passive in the text. There should be 10.

Think about these things:

1. Which tenses are used? (present simple, past simple, passive infinitive)

2. Why has the passive been used in each case? Use the list of reasons from the second page to help you.

Here are the passive sentences:

# Example Tense Why is the passive used?
1 Paramedics were called to the singer’s Beverly Hills home Past simple It is not important/we don’t know who called the paramedics
2 He was pronounced dead Past simple It’s obvious that doctors at the hospital pronounced him dead
3 Jackson had been due to perform a series of comeback concerts Past perfect Actually, it is impossible to put this sentence in an active form. To be due to do something is just a fixed passive expression
4 He is believed to have suffered a cardiac arrest Present simple Obviously, doctors/experts/journalists believe this
5 Jackson’s body was flown Past simple We don’t know/it’s unimportant/obvious who flew the plane – and the story is all about Jackson’s body.
6 a post-mortem was carried out Past simple Obviously, doctors carried out the post mortem
7 The results have not yet been published. Present perfect We don’t know/it’s not important/it’s obvious who publish the reports. Doctors or lawyers or something…
8 Concerns over Michael’s health were raised last month Past simple We don’t know – just that people were concerned. Putting the concern at the beginning (as a noun) is better than saying ‘people were concerned’ – the important thing is the concern, not the people.
9 four of Jackson’s planned comeback concerts were postponed Past simple Obviously, they were postponed by Jackson’s managers & promotors
10 the dates had been moved Past perfect Again, we know who moved them – it was his managers

How are passives pronounced in sentences?

In a moment I am going to read some sentences with passives in them. I’m focussing on the way these passives are pronounced. There are two main issues:

Auxiliary verbs pronounced with weak forms so they are difficult to hear.

Past participles (especially –ed) ones are just difficult words to pronounce correctly.

So, listen to me read the sentences. I’ll read each sentence once with all the words individually pronounced. Then I’ll read them with the words linked up. Repeat the linked up sentences. Try to copy exactly how I say it – think about the rhythm and word stress I’m using. You could record yourself – this will really help you.

In these sentences there are passive forms, but also lots of other words. Try to pronounce them correctly too. Try to say the sentence as one long sound with all the words linked together. We don’t always link every word, but it is good pronunciation practice.

Present simple passive:

We’re given a test at the end of the course to check our progress in English

Present continuous passive:

We’re always being encouraged by our teacher to read books in English

Present perfect passive:

My podcast has been downloaded 120 times today already

Past simple passive:

All the the students were given a grammar test as soon as they arrived at school

Past continuous passive:

The students were being interviewed when I arrived at quarter past 10

Past perfect passive:

Everyone had already been put in their classes, except me.

Will + passive:

The podcast will be uploaded onto the iTunes store in the next few days

Going to + passive:

The new Harry Potter film is going to be released on Friday

So, you can go back to those sentences and listen and repeat them again and again.

That’s it, bye bye bye bye bye byebye!