1-2-3 E-prime!

E-prime or English Prime just means standard English without the use of the verb ‘to be.’ Use E-prime to share sensations and perspectives, instead of relying on the verb ‘to be’. See if you can tell the difference E-prime makes in the following example:

Instead of saying “The grass is green.” Try saying “The grass looks green.

By using E-prime you re-include yourself in the dialogue or statement. Now the listener knows who observed the grass, and who identified the color of the grass.  We call that person the referent.

Use E-prime to communicate sensations and perspectives instead of facts.

Notice how using E-prime means you need to select a verb that describes your action. In the example, Kung Furious ‘looks’ to determine the color of the grass!

Three Easy Ways to Start Using E-prime

  1. Speak in the active voice, and you don’t require the verb ‘to be’ in the first place.
  2. Utilize ‘appears’ or ‘seems’ to replace the verb ‘to be’ when passive voice springs up.
  3. Remember the verb ‘to be’ has many variations! Watch out for conjunctions too!

Conjugations and Conjunctions To Avoid

is, am
be, been
become, because
was, were
you’re, are, aren’t
that’s, it’s, I’m

If you get stuck choosing a verb, GREAT!  You just switched ON your verb generator! With a little practice, you’ll start using just the right verb for the job easily. We’ll talk later about how pausing to think of a verb, improves relating since it helps disengage knee-jerk reactions.

Get Help From Someone Who Speaks Fluent E-Prime

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Shifting from Passive Voice to Active Voice

I was going to go to the store, and now I am too lazy.
passive turned into active!
I feel lazy right now, so I postponed going to the store.

The Wallet Example

Everyone knows how maddening it feels to lose your wallet or car keys.  It turns into a panic search as you proceed from one place to the next, scattering articles around the room until you eventually find yourself down on all fours squinting under the couch for the third time.  How could E-prime help you find your wallet?  Let’s examine the idea with this fun little example.

Let’s say you and your partner walk to the car. You reach back to check for your wallet and discover only an empty pocket.  Looking toward your partner, you say “Where is my wallet?”  They reply “It’s on the dresser.”  You go to the bedroom and to the dresser, but alas…NO WALLET.  Thinking it must “Be on the dresser.” You don’t notice it next to the dresser in a basket.

Now, with E-prime.  You say “I lost my wallet.”  Your partner replies “I can help you find it, I saw it on the dresser.” You both head upstairs and start the search.  Since your partner saw the wallet on the dresser, you begin there but quickly expand the search.  More accurate verbs gave you more precise information about the situation and cut down the search time.