Understanding Grammar: Scary Stories (Narrative Tenses)
In this week's Premier Skills English podcast, as it's nearly Halloween, Jack and Rich both have a spooky story to tell. The language focus is on grammar and narrative tenses but they also have lots of words and phrases connected to fear for you to learn. Your task is to re-tell Jack's scary story using narrative tenses. Don't forget to listen until the end of the podcast because we have a special frightening football phrase for you, too.
Understanding grammar Scary Stories: Narrative Tenses
Rich: Wooah! What are you doing?
Jack: Ha ha! I made you jump! It’s only me. What are you scared of?
Rich: Why are you hiding behind a door? You …
Jack: It’s Halloween this week. Ghosts, witches, zombies all that kind of stuff. I love it.
Rich: I don’t really believe in all that nonsense, but it can be fun, I suppose.
Jack: Yes, it is, and it’s not really that scary.
Rich: Not like Arsenal’s defending, ha ha … that is absolutely terrifying!
Jack: Very funny.
Welcome - Halloween
Rich: Hello my name’s Rich
Jack: and I’m Jack
Rich: and welcome to this week’s Premier Skills English podcast
Jack: Where we talk about football and help you with your English.
Rich: We recommend that you listen to this podcast on the Premier Skills English website because that is where we have the transcript, language examples, activities, quizzes and a discussion page to help you understand everything we talk about.
Jack: However, if you’re listening on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, you can leave answers to our questions in the review section. We do read all the reviews and would love to hear from you.
Rich: In this week’s podcast, we are going to tell you a couple of scary stories and talk about narrative tenses. I have a story for you that might be a little bit scary so I hope that you are not alone when listening to this podcast!
Jack: That sounds a bit creepy Rich.
Rich: It’s not that scary just a little frightening :)
Jack: I also have a story to tell and your task this week is to retell my story in the comments section using some narrative tenses.
Rich: Make sure you listen to the end of the podcast because we’ve got a special Halloween football phrase for you to guess as well.
Last week’s Football Phrase
Rich: But, before we look at all that, let’s look at last week’s football phrase. If you didn’t hear it last week we’ll give you one more chance to guess and give you the correct answer at the end of the show when we give you a new football phrase.
Jack: Last week’s football phrase was one that I love and it’s probably my favourite bit of skill on the football pitch.
Rich: And quite a few of our listeners got the right answer. A big well done to Liubomyr from Ukraine, Wsanta from Argentina, Lakerwang from China, Marwa_Ababneh from Jordan, Milos from Serbia, Elghoul from Algeria, Idzingirai from Zimbabwe, Ahmed Abdallah from Egypt and Reza_Tash from Iran. Let’s hear the phrase one more time.
Jack: The word is ****** and it describes the action when a player puts the ball through another player’s legs. It looks great and makes the other player look a bit silly.
Rich: We’ll give you the answer at the end of the show and we’ll have a new football phrase for you to guess.
Introduction to story
Jack: Do you like ghost stories, Rich?
Rich: Not usually but once many years ago I was travelling on an overnight train through Transylvania in Romania and I was reading …
Rich: Yes! I know it’s a bit of a cliche … a bit stereotypical but I bought Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the journey and read it on the train. I remember it being a full moon, too. It definitely added a bit of atmosphere. I was really scared.
Jack: Dracula’s a really good book. Vampires are cool. There have been lots of films about them in the last few years. When I was younger I watched a few horror movies. Some of them were absolutely petrifying and I couldn’t sleep for days. But these days I’m more afraid of what happens in real life than in horror movies.
Rich: That’s the thing, Jack. Sometimes real life and horror stories or ghost stories are the same thing. Let me tell you something that happened to a friend a few years ago.
Jack: A story?
Rich: It’s not a story. Well, it is, it’s a true story.
Jack: OK, but let’s give our listeners a task while they are listening to your ‘true’ story. While you are listening, here’s a question for you to answer:
Rich: Where did the clown go?
Rich: Here’s a story that a friend, Kimberly, told me a few years ago. I don’t know if I should believe her but she swears that it’s true.
Jack: When someone swears something is true I never believe them.
Rich: Well, Kimberley says this is 100% true and I’ve known her for a long time. She was babysitting for the Beckham family in Kensington - a rich part of London - it was before I knew her.
Jack: The Beckham family? David Beckham? Is that when he was playing for Chelsea or Arsenal?
Rich: I don’t know. It’s just what Kimberley told me.
Jack: So, what did she say about the house?
Rich: The house was very big and had lots of antiques, awards and music and football memorabilia. It was full of old paintings and things. Kimberly had only ever looked after the two children in the daytime and it was the first time she was going to babysit in the evening.
Jack: The best scary stories always happen at night time.
Rich: The parents told her that the children needed to go to bed at seven-thirty and afterwards she should go and watch TV in the basement and not go looking in different rooms and parts of the house. They said they’d be home at about eleven.
Jack: Come on! The basement! This is not real.
Rich: She swears it’s true. So, the kids eventually went to sleep about eight and she went downstairs to watch TV for a bit. She didn’t like the basement - it was full of weird stuff and that’s where David kept his collection of football caps. They were everywhere. Some were pinned to the wall, some were on mannequins and one was on the head of a life-size clown statue. That statue really freaked her out.
Jack: Scary clowns. Please.
Rich: While she was watching TV, she suddenly got scared. She thought that the creepy clown was watching her so she threw a sheet over it so she didn’t have to look at it.
Jack: She just found a sheet...
Rich: I don’t know. Anyway, she still couldn’t stop thinking about the clown because the sheet didn’t cover its super-sized clown shoes so she knew it was there. She decided to ring David.
Jack: Why? To ask why there was a super scary clown statue that was going to turn into a psycho?
Rich: Something like that. She called David to ask if she could watch TV in another room because the giant clown was freaking her out.
Jack: And he didn’t answer, right?
Rich: No, he did answer. He sounded really worried. He told her the kids had been having nightmares about clowns, saying a clown was in the house at night time. Then he said that he didn’t own a clown statue and that she had to get the kids out of the house.
Jack: And then the clown killed them all. Haha!
Rich: Nope. She looked around and the clown wasn’t there. Just a sheet on the floor. She ran up the stairs woke up the kids and got out of the house.
Jack: Mmm. That’s one of the worst stories I’ve ever heard.
Rich: I don’t think it’s a story. Maybe we should try to get an interview with David Beckham so he can corroborate!
Jack: In the last section Rich told you a ghost story. Not a very good ghost story.
Rich: It wasn’t a story. It was true.
Jack: Mmm, I’m not so sure. Anyway, we gave you a question to think about. It was: Where did the clown go? What’s the answer, Rich?
Rich: Not sure. The clown may have run away. The clown might have just been in Kimberley’s head or maybe a ghost!
Jack: OK, we’ll leave that there. What we want to look at now is some of the language you used in the story. Specifically, we’re going to look at narrative tenses.
Rich: Firstly, let’s check we know what narrative tenses are.
Jack: Narrative tenses are basically tenses in the past that we use to tell stories. The three main narrative tenses we use to tell a story are the past simple, the past continuous and the past perfect.
Rich: You may have noticed some of these tenses in the ghost story.
Jack: We’re going to focus on the past continuous and past perfect and how and when we use them. Let’s start with the past continuous.
Rich: In the story, I said my friend Kimberley was babysitting for the Beckham family. This is the past continuous - was babysitting.
Jack: We create the past continuous with was or were plus a verb in the -ing form.
Rich: In this first example, we are using the past continuous to describe an event that happened over a period of time in the past.
Jack: Kimberley was looking after the children or was babysitting between six ‘o’clock and eleven ‘o’clock. She was babysitting over a period of time.
Rich: It’s very common to use the past continuous at the beginning of a story to give background to a story and explain what is happening.
Jack: You might hear something like: Once upon a time, three little pigs were playing in their garden or A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away the rebel alliance was fighting the evil galactic empire.
Rich: The past continuous is also used to say what was happening when a specific action happened.
Jack: In the story, Rich told us that Kimberley was watching TV when she suddenly got scared.
Rich: In this example, we use the past continuous to describe what was happening - Kimberly was watching TV - and the past simple to describe the action - she got scared.
Jack: We use the past continuous to describe what was happening before the action happened and the past simple to describe the action.
Rich: Some common examples are:
Jack: We were playing football when it started to rain.
Rich: The fans were cheering and singing until the other team scored.
Jack: I was eating dinner when the doorbell rang.
Rich: Let’s look at the past perfect now.
Jack: We can use the past perfect to talk about something that happened or didn’t happen before another event in the past.
Rich: So, we are talking about two things that happened in the past but one event was before the other event. Listen to this example from the story:
Jack: Kimberley had only ever looked after the children in the daytime.
Rich: In this example, we are saying that Kimberley had looked after the children in the daytime before but now she was looking after them at night for the first time.
Jack: We use the past perfect to describe the time that is furthest in the past. To create the past perfect we use had plus the third form of the verb - in this example it’s had looked after.
Rich: Let’s look at a football example. I went to the football stadium at 1 o'clock yesterday. Jack went to my house at 2 'o clock yesterday.
Jack: Both of these sentences are in the past simple but we can put them together using the past perfect.
Rich: Jack went to my house at two but I had already gone to the football stadium.
Jack: Here are some more examples:
Rich: I sat down and fell over because someone had moved my chair.
Jack: He had never scored in the Premier League before.
Rich: I felt sick because I had eaten too much.
Jack: OK, so that’s the past continuous and the past perfect but let’s have a quick look at the past perfect continuous. Here’s an example from the story:
Rich: The kids had been having nightmares about clowns.
Jack: We use the past perfect continuous for something that happened often in the past or over a period of time and continued up to another time in the past.
Rich: To create the past perfect continuous we use had plus been plus a verb with ing.
Jack: Let’s look at another football example. He had been playing really well before he got injured.
Rich: We use the past perfect continuous had been playing to describe the period of time before another time in the past, in this case when the player got injured.
Jack: Here are some more examples:
Rich: I realised I’d been doing too much so I took some time off.
Jack: I noticed that he’d been crying so asked what was wrong.
Rich: He’d been playing semi-professionally before he was spotted by a Premier League club.
Jack: There are more examples and activities to help you with narrative tenses on the Premier Skills English website.
Rich: Your task this week is to listen to another spooky story. This time Jack is telling the story.
Jack: We will give you a more specific task after the story. First, we want you to listen and answer this question.
Rich: Who is Jack texting?
Jack: Ah - Rich. Hmm probably running late …
Jack: Let’s see what he says. Hi Jack, sorry, can you meet me at the old church?
Jack: The old church? Erm. texting sounds yes... I ... can...
Jack: I wonder what this is about.
Jack: What’s he saying now? It’s a surprise. Come quickly.
Jack:... OK - just finishing my coffee.
Jack: No come now - it’s important
Jack: OK Rich …
Jack: Are you here yet?
Jack: Are you here yet?? I’ve just left the cafe... how could I be there already.
Jack:... I’m 2 minutes away.
Rich: Jack ... Jack ...
Jack: Keep coming - don’t turn around.
Rich: Jack ... Jack ...
Jack: Hurry up - don’t turn around.
Rich: Jack ...
Jack: Ah Rich - there you are.
Rich: Where are you going?
Jack: To the old church...
Rich: Why are you going to the old church?
Jack: To meet you. You’ve been sending me messages.
Rich: No ... I lost my phone last night ....
Rich: That was spooky. Can you answer the question we gave you? Who was Jack texting in the story?
Jack: Well, I thought it was you!
Rich: But, it wasn’t. Good job I found you. Who knows who it was?
Jack: It gives me the creeps.
Rich: Are you walking home alone tonight? Ha haha!
Jack:Oh be quiet. Right, the task we have for you is to retell my story using narrative tenses in the comments section.
Rich: Imagine you are telling a friend what happened to Jack. Here are some questions to help you:
Jack: Where was I? What was I doing when I read the messages?
Rich: How do you know it wasn’t me sending the messages? What had happened to my phone? What could have happened to Jack at the church?
Jack: Let’s hear your ideas in the comments section on the Premier Skills English website.
Rich: Have you got a football phrase for us this week?
Jack: This week’s football phrase has a Halloween feel to it. The phrase is ****** ******. It is a challenge on the pitch that is horrible to watch that often results in an injury to another player. The first part of the phrase is also used to describe a type of film which is scary.
Rich: Not something that is nice to see on the pitch.
Jack: Right, that’s all we have time for this week! Don’t forget to write your answers to our questions and make a guess at our football phrase in the comments below. If you get it right, we’ll announce your name on next week’s show.
Rich: Before we forget, if you’re still thinking about last week’s football phrase - the answer was nutmeg.
Jack: Bye for now and enjoy your football!
How much did you understand?
In the podcast, Rich and Jack used some words and phrases connected to fear. Do you know the words in bold?
I made you jump! What are you afraid of?
I don't believe in all that nonsense!
Arsenal's defending is absolutely terrifying.
Some horror films are absolutely petrifying.
Wow! Really? How creepy?
Halloween is not that scary.
There were a few more tricky words in the podcast. Do you know what they all mean? Try the activity below, then, listen to the podcast again to hear how we used the words.
In the podcast, Rich told everyone a (bad) ghost story. The story happened in the past. When he was speaking, he used a lot of past tenses. Past tenses to tell stories are often called narrative tenses. Narrative tenses are what we should normally use when we are telling a story that took place in the past. Let's take a look at some examples of narrative tenses from the podcast:
We use the past simple to talk about something that happened once (e.g. Marcus Rashford scored in the 36th minute) or many times in the past (e.g. Alan Shearer scored many goals), for a period of time in the past (e.g. Ronaldo played in the Premier League for 6 years) or to describe states in the past (Diego Maradona was a great player). These are some examples from Rich's story:
The house was very big and had lots of antiques, awards and music and football memorabilia.
The parents told her that the children needed to go to bed at seven-thirty.
We use the past continuous (was/were + verb + -ing) in a number of ways but the main reasons are to talk about something that continued for a long time or to say what was happening before and/or after a specific action or time. The action is usually the past simple and the description before the.action is the past continuous. Here are some examples from Rich's story and a football example we used in the podcast:
She was babysitting for the Beckham family in Kensington - a rich part of London.
While she was watching TV, she suddenly got scared.
The fans were cheering and singing until the other team scored.
When we talk about something that happened in the past we sometimes want to refer back to something that happened before that time. We can use the past perfect tense (had + past participle) to do this. Here's an example from Rich's story and a football example we used in the podcast:
Kimberly had only ever looked after the two children in the daytime. It was the first time she was going to babysit in the evening.
He had never scored in the Premier League before Saturday.
Past Perfect Continuous
We also use the past perfect continuous (had + been + verb + -ing) two connect two things that happened at different times in the past. It is used for the thing that happened further in the past and usually happened frequently or over a long period of time. Here's an example from Rich's story and a football example we used in the podcast:
He told her the kids had been having nightmares about clowns.
He had been playing really well before he got injured.
Now in this activity, take a look at the text and decide which narrative tense to use in each sentence. Then, take a look at this lesson which tells the story of a Leicester City fan and explains narrative tenses in more detail.
Re-tell Jack's scary story
This week's task is to retell Jack's story using narrative tenses.
Imagine you are telling a friend what happened to Jack. Here some questions to help you:
- Where was Jack? What was he doing when he was reading the messages?
- How do you know it wasn’t Rich sending the messages? What had happened to RIch's phone? What could have happened to Jack at the church?
Try to use the past simple, past continuous and past perfect when you re-tell Jack's story.
Write all your answers in the comments section below and don't forget to make a guess at this week's football phrase!