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Session 3

Narrative tenses are important when you're telling a story. Listen to Catherine, Neil and Rob from the Learning English team talking about some interesting experiences they've had. Not everyone is telling the truth! Try to work out who's telling porky pies (lies), then test your understanding.

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

True or false?

Who do you believe?

Neil, Catherine and Rob all have some interesting and sometimes amusing stories to tell you but how true are they? Have a listen to them here and work out which one is fact and which ones are fiction. Only one story is fact - that is, it really happened. As you listen see if you can spot the narrative tenses being used.

Listen to the audio and complete the activity

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Neil's story

Hi this is Neil here. I was really late for work one day; I had a really important meeting to go to. I was late because I'd left my travel pass at home, so I'd had to run home to get my travel pass before I actually managed to get onto the tube - and that made me late. And then when I got to work, I was running along the corridor when I noticed that the lift door was open, so I sprinted and just managed to get into the lift and, you know, I was exhausted. And the lift started going up and then it just kind of, came to a stop – it broke down. I thought 'oh no' today's really not my day, I'm so unlucky. I couldn't believe it: I was going to be late after all. And I looked up to see the other people in the lift and I couldn't believe it, the only other person in the lift with me was Paul McCartney – the ex-Beatle Paul McCartney was standing in the lift with me. He just looked at me and said "Let it be".

Catherine's story

Hello, Catherine here. I'm going to tell you the story of how cricket saved my grandfather's life. The story happened in the 2nd World War when my grandfather was called up to serve in the army as a young man and he went to the training camp to do six weeks of basic training in the UK. Then all of the people in the army with him got told they were going to sail on a ship to Singapore to fight in the war. The day before they sailed the army people - trainees - had a cricket match against the local police force, and my grandfather played in this cricket match and did very well, and he scored about 68 not out, which I am told is a very good score in cricket. And the commander of the army or captain or whoever, called my grandfather to his office and said that was a very good innings, in fact it was so good that you're not going to go to Singapore tomorrow, you're going to stay with me and play on the cricket team. So my grandfather actually spent the rest of the Second World War in the UK working in a supplies store and playing cricket for the army, which was a good result for him especially because when the ship sailed to Singapore the next day, it was torpedoed and sank and terribly, everyone on the ship lost their lives. So cricket really did save my grandfather's life.

Rob's story

Hello Rob here. I've got a story about an embarrassing situation I got myself into. Before I worked at the BBC, I used to be a bookkeeper – surprising isn't it?! – but I almost wasn't. You see I applied for a job to be a bookkeeper and I filled in the application form and waited anxiously to see if I'd get an interview. Well I got an interview and I was asked to turn up at a farm, which seemed a bit odd to me, but I wanted a job so I went to this place dressed in a suit. And when I got there I started thinking "this is a strange place for a job as a bookkeeper". Anyway, I met these two guys and the interview started and it was after I was asked the first question that it dawned on me that I wasn't being interviewed for a job as a bookkeeper. You see they asked me to talk about a time when I'd managed a hive. Yeah, the job wasn't as a bookkeeper but it was to be a beekeeper. Can you imagine how embarrassed I felt - so I had to make my excuses and leave!

So who was telling the truth? Even if a story sounds unbelievable, it may be true - and that is the case with Catherine's story. Her grandfather really didn't go to war because of his superb cricket skills. But Rob and Neil's stories were just fictional - they were made up!

To do

Even though some of these stories were made up, it's time to test your understanding of what you heard by completing this activity.

What did they mean?

10 Questions

10 questions to test your understanding of Catherine, Neil and Rob's stories.

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y

Your turn!

Now we want to hear your stories - let us know if they are true or false! We'll see if other people can work out if you're telling porky pies (lies).

Thank you for emailing your comments to us. We enjoyed reading them. This task is now closed.

Here are some of the comments that we received:

Lineda, France

I'm going to tell you about something that happened to me.

Last week-end I travelled to visit my relatives by train and I was reading an interesting detective novel. All of a sudden the man stood up, we sat opposite one another. While he was going away he gave me a wink and left a folded piece of paper on his seat.

As you can imagine I was surprised and I thought that the content of the paper was his telephone number. After that I picked up the piece of paper and read it. He had already read the book and wrote the killer’s name. Obviously I didn't want to know the killer's name and wanted to keep the story's plot.

Vincenzo Peccerillo, Italy

Last month I spent some days at my parents' house. On a Sunday morning I was getting ready to go out when I suddenly heard strange rumours. I had just started the washing machine, so I assumed that something was going wrong with its operation. However, after a few seconds I understood that the rumours were coming from the outside. I opened the house's door and discovered that a woman was staying trapped in the lift, together with her dog. She was hitting on the lift internal walls, trying to attract someone's attention. Her dog was very nervous, and its barks almost covered her voice! I offered to dial the emergency number, but she asked me to warn her husband right away. I moved to her apartment immediately. After being informed, her husband didn't appear very worried... He seemed quite annoyed by my intrusion instead! I went back to the lift and pushed the call button, as suggested by the entrapped woman. Surprisingly, the lift started moving! Everything came good in the end... However, I had to return home quickly, because the dog looked very angry with me!

Mario, Italy

Is this story true or false?

I know that what I am going to tell might be incredible, but this was the seventh year in a row that I was awarded the B.L. prize. I was sitting in my place when I heard the ritual words "and the winner is..." and, after my name was pronounced, I headed for the presenter to pick up the prize. While Photographers was taking pictures of me, I shook hands with very famous people such as Bono Vox, George Clooney and Angelina Jolie. Obviously, I had to make a speech to the audience and the millions of people watching TV.

It was a compelling experience. What? Haven't you ever heard of The B.L. prize? 

Juan Carlos

When I was younger I jumped in parachute some times. I had to travel from Madrid to San Chidrián every weekend for two months to get the license and experience. It was funny but first time I jumped things were different that we had prepared. Rookies had preference to get on a plane so a friend and I were waiting for our moment when suddenly two men dressed in suits made a corridor with his arms and they permitted to get on the plane to other paratrooper that I'd never seen before.

Our coach was at his side, the unknown paratrooper was as young as we were, he was tall and he had problems with the helmet because of his hair. The coach accompanied him during the flight. We saw him other times but he never joined us. He was the son of a minister and the last year he was the minister of justice here.

Anastasiya, Russia

Is this a true story?

When I was a student, I was really short of money. I had to have an evening part-time work at the nursery. What happen was one day children had gone home with their parents, the last boy stayed there. It was about time to close our nursery, the boy was tired and wanted to his mum, he was crying a little. Finally I saw an old woman coming through the gate. She asked me, where Alex was. I thought the boy was her grandson. I asked her to give me his mum`s permission to take the boy and brought him. All of a sudden she began shouting at me.  She screamed, that it wasn`t Alex, where her sweet boy was and what I had done with him. She called me stupid girl and so on. Can you imagine it? There was no one around, I had only one little crying boy two or three years old. He couldn`t speak and couldn`t tell me anything. The woman told me, that she lived in another town and came to visit her daughter and grandson. And then it dawned on me. There were two kindergartens in our street, separated by an alley.  I asked her, how old Alex was. She replied that he was six. Our kindergarten was for children from two to four. I explained her how she could find another kindergarten where her dearest Alex was missing  her.

But It wasn`t the end of the story, because I still had the crying boy with me. It was too late. I took his hand and we went together along the street to his block of flats. I must admit, it was against the rules. I would have to call the police in order to find his parents. But it would take plenty of time. Previously I had found out that the boy lived nearby.  After five minutes I knocked on the door of his flat. Another old woman asked me what I needed. I told her that I was from a kindergarten, I had a boy with me, he was her grandson and he wanted to go home. After that I had a strong sense of déjà vu. Because this woman started screaming. And I was called a stupid girl again. She didn`t open the door and told me, that his father had taken her grandson and they were watching TV in boy`s bedroom. I was really stunned. Fortunately the boy burst into tears: ‘Granny Anna! Granny Anna!’  She opened the door and hugged her grandson. His father was a trucker. He was so exhausted after long  journey, that just wanted to have a little nap. He had just overslept. Granny came home and began cooking. She didn`t realise that the man was sleeping and the boy wasn`t at home. She thought that everything quiet so they were watching TV.

Maan, UAE

Is this a true story?

I had been in France for two years when I visited Monaco. I wanted to play Roulette in the Casino so I got in with my friends while my wife was taking care of our son outside. Although i have never played before and i didn't know the rules, I won. When i got out my wife was so angry and I realised that I forgot them waiting in the car until 3:00 am. I never gambled after that again. 

Manoel Gomes, Brazil

Is this a true story?

I was really young and lived with my parents in a old house. Once time I was coming back from a party at midnight when I heard a odd sound. I didn't know what was that then I began to run very fast. While I was running I saw a old lady running beside me. I couldn't believe... She was a ghost of lady that had died long time ago. Luckily the ghost  vanished and I came back home safe.

Juan Carlos

Is this story true?

Hello everybody. My story is about a funny situation that I had several years ago before of wedding with my ex-wife. I and my twin brother used to go to several nightclubs with our respective girlfriends , but the first time that I went, his girlfriend (my brother's girlfriend) didn't know that I am his brother.

I had been waiting to my girlfriend for long time at the club but suddenly one strange woman began to kiss me. she was kissing me when my girlfriend arrived with her friends. She just looked at me and started to ask me, who is that girl? I tried to explain her but I couldn't because I was very confused.

Fortunately my brother arrived at the club and our girlfriends realized that we are twins brother.

End of Session 3

That's all for this session. Join us in Session 4 where we look at word and phrases to express surprise and disbelief - and learn how to pronounce them properly.

Session Vocabulary

  • fiction
    imagined; made up

    called up
    told to do active military service

    the ​period in a ​game of ​cricket in which a ​team or a ​player ​bats

    hit by a ​long, ​thin ​bomb made to ​travel ​underwater in ​order to ​destroy ​ships

    a job that involves keeping exact details of money a company has spent or received

    feeling worried or nervous

    it dawned on me
    (idiom) I suddenly started to realise

    a place where bees live and make honey

    ran very fast for a short period of time