Lexicon Valley: The Biggest Change to English Grammar You’ve Never Heard of

A show about the mysteries of English.
May 29 2012 11:12 AM

“The House is Building”?

Why you never learned the passival tense, even though it used to be proper English grammar.

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Listen to Lexicon Valley Episode No. 11: When Being Done Replaced Doing

As a language evolves, words, phrases, and even whole tenses fall in and out of fashion. And then, every once in a while, a whole new way of expressing a particular thought will emerge seemingly out of nowhere and eventually win the day. That’s what happened over the course of the 19th century with the “progressive passive,” which took on a construction known as the “passival” and muscled it completely out of the English language. Listen as Bob Garfield and I discuss what’s arguably the biggest change in our language since Shakespeare.

You'll find every Lexicon Valley episode at slate.com/lexiconvalley, or in the player below:

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Mike Vuolo is senior producer of podcasts and editor of @lexiconvalley.