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How To
 

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- Extending a conversation

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- Closing topics

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- Likes

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- Dislikes

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- No strong feelings

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- Responding to compliments

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- Funny incidents

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- Gossiping

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- Getting back on topic

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- Serious incidents

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- Chatting someone up

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- Being sarcastic

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- Agreeing in informal situations

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- Showing interest

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- Telling a story

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- Being vague
Listening to a story


How to tell a story

When telling a joke, a story or relating an anecdote something strange can happen to English grammar. In this programme we hear how and why present verb forms can be used to talk about past actions.

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Don't forget to practise what you've learned with the activity.


Telling a story
Read these two versions of the same event. Compare the differences.
Both versions are correct. The alternative version is a natural way in spoken English of telling a story/joke or relating an anecdote.

Original version

I was in the cinema and I was watching a film and half way through the person next to me, their mobile phone rang and this person answered it and began to have a conversation. And lots of people were looking round and tutting and then the manager came in and he told me to leave. He thought it’d been me on the phone. So I had to go out and explain to him that it hadn’t been me, it’d been the man next to me. He apologised and because of the inconvenience he gave me some free tickets. And so actually it was OK because I hadn’t really been enjoying the film anyway.

Alternative version
Well, last night I’m in the cinema, watching this film and half way through the person next to me, their mobile phone starts ringing. He answers it and he begins to have this conversation. And lots of people are turning round and they’re looking and tutting and then in comes the manager and tells me to leave. He thinks it was me on the phone. So I have to go out and explain to him that it wasn’t me, it was the man next to me. And he apologises and because of the inconvenience he gives me some free tickets. And actually that was OK because I wasn’t really enjoying the film anyway.

Telling a story - some features
Verb forms
Compare the verb forms between the original and the alternative version:
  • past simple becomes present simple
  • past continuous becomes present continuous
  • past perfect becomes past simple
Word order
Compare the word order of phrasal verbs between the original and the alternative version:
  • "... the manager came in ..." becomes " ... in comes the manager ..."


WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT?

You try:
Here is a straightforward account of an incident. Imagine you are chatting with some friends, how could you change the grammar of this paragraph to make it more suitable for informal spoken English?

The other morning I was having a shower and there was a knock at the door. I was expecting a package so I jumped out of the shower, dripping wet, and threw on my bathrobe. I rushed to the front door, which was locked, so I tried to find my keys, which was very difficult because I still had soap in my eyes from the shower. I finally found my keys and opened the door but it wasn't the postman at the door. It was my mother and she gave me a very strange look because not only was I still dripping wet and covered in soap, I was actually wearing my wife's bathrobe, which is pink and fluffy. When I'd jumped out of the shower my eyes had been so covered in soap that I must have grabbed hers instead of mine. Anyway, my mother walked in and in a voice that could freeze fire said "I hope you're not taking me out to lunch dressed like that."

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