29. Mystery Story / Narrative Tenses in English


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This podcast is about narrative tenses (past simple, past continuous & past perfect – see details below). We use these tenses to sequence stories about the past. To master the use of these tenses you have to deal with their form, their use and their pronunciation – both for listening and speaking. Use this podcast to help you deal with all of those things, and then start using narrative tenses fluently whenever you describe something. Make your descriptions more detailed and colourful!

Below you can read the mystery story from the podcast, and then grammar details and a tense review exercise.

Listen to the story, and notice the different verb forms being used. If you like you can try to remember the story and repeat it to yourself until you’re using all the tenses correctly. You can then transfer what you’ve learned and remembered from the story when you talk about something else.

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The mystery story:
Last night I was walking home next to the river Thames, when something strange happened to me. It was late at night and I’d had a long and difficult day at work. There was a large full moon in the sky and everything was quiet. I was tired and lonely and I’d just had a few pints of beer in my local pub, so I decided to stop by the riverside and look at the moon for a while. I sat on some steps very close to the water’s edge and looked up at the big yellow moon and wondered if it really was made of cheese. I felt very tired so I closed my eyes and after a few minutes, I fell asleep.

When I woke up, the moon had moved behind a cloud and it was very dark and cold. The wind was blowing and an owl hooted in a tree above me. I rubbed my eyes and started to get up, when suddenly I heard a splash. I looked down at the water and saw something. Something terrible and frightening, and unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Something was coming out of the water and moving towards me. Something green and strange and ugly. It was a long green arm and it was stretching out from the water to grab my leg. I was so scared that I couldn’t move. I’d never been so scared in my whole life. The cold green hand was moving closer and closer when suddenly there was a blue flash and a strange noise from behind me. Someone jumped onto the stairs next to me. He was wearing strange clothes and he had a crazy look in his eyes. He shouted “Get Back!” and pointed something at the monster in the water. There was a bright flash and the monster hissed and disappeared.

I looked up at the man. He looked strange, but kind. “Don’t fall asleep by the river when there’s a full moon”, he said “The Moon Goblins will get you.” I’d never heard of moon goblins before. I didn’t know what to do. “Who… who are you?” I asked him. “You can call me… The Doctor.” He said. I was trying to think of something else to say when he turned around and said, “Watch the stars at night, and be careful of the full moon”. I was trying to understand what he meant, when there was another blue flash and I closed my eyes. When I opened them again, he had gone.

I couldn’t believe what had happened. What on earth were Moon Goblins, and who was the mysterious Doctor? And why had he saved me? I was determined to find the answers to these strange questions. I stood up, looked at the moon and quickly walked home.

Listen to just the story again here [Download audio]

Narrative Tenses
Past simple tense
Form: the simple past form of the verb. E.g. “We met on holiday, we talked about art and music, we fell in love, I asked her to marry me and when she said yes I kissed her passionately on the lips.”
Use: To explain the main events of the story in sequence. We use ‘then’, ‘after that’, ‘first’ and ‘finally’ to link them up. E.g. “First I finished work, then I went to the pub, after that I had a few pints, then I sat down by the river and then I fell asleep, after that the moon moved, and then I woke up and then an owl hooted and after that I heard a splash and then a monster tried to grab my leg and after that the Doctor rescued me and then he disappeared, and finally I went home.
We can also use conjunctions to link up clauses with past simple verb forms. ‘When’ is probably the most common. E.g. “When I woke up, and owl hooted.” Or “An owl hooted when I woke up”.

Past continuous
Form: was/were + -ing E.g. “We were talking about my Swiss bank account when suddenly she pulled me close and kissed me again.”
Use: To describe longer or repeated actions. It’s often used to describe the general situation at the beginning of a story. E.g. “I was walking home when something strange happened.”
Also, we use it to sequence events when it is combined with the past simple. Past continuous is the long or repeated action which is interrupted by a short, quick past simple action. E.g. “The green hand was moving towards me when suddenly there was a blue flash and a man jumped onto the stairs next to me”.
We use ‘when’ or ‘while’ to link the actions in a sentence. E.g. “When I woke up, the wind was blowing. The wind was blowing when I woke up. While I was walking, something happened. Something happened while I was walking.”

Past Perfect
Form: had + past participle E.g. “When I arrived at the airport I realised that she had stolen my wallet and passport”.
Use: To express that an action happened before the main events of the story. E.g. “When I woke up, the moon had moved” [the moon moved, then I woke up], which is different to “The moon moved when I woke up” [I woke up, then the moon moved].
Sometimes it is used a bit like present perfect, but when everything is in the past. E.g. “I’ve never heard of moon goblins before” But for yesterday it would be “I had never heard of moon goblins.”

Pronunciation drills:

1. Andrew had done the test before, so he found it very easy.

2. I didn’t laugh at the joke because I had heard it before.

3. We left the restaurant when we had finished dinner.

4. When I found my wallet, I discovered that somebody had taken all the money from it.

Practice:
Here’s the transcript to the mystery story, but with some of the verbs ‘gapped’. Try to put them in the correct tense. Listen again to check.
The mystery story:
Last night I _________________ (walk) home next to the river Thames, when something strange _________________ (happen) to me. It was late at night and I _________________ (have) a long and difficult day at work. There was a large full moon in the sky and everything was quiet. I was tired and lonely and I _________________ (just have) a few pints of beer in my local pub, so I decided to stop by the riverside and look at the moon for a while.

I _________________ (sit) on some steps very close to the water’s edge and looked up at the big yellow moon and wondered if it really was made of cheese. I felt very tired so I _________________ (close) my eyes and after a few minutes, I _________________ (fall) asleep. When I woke up, the moon _________________ (move) behind a cloud and it was very dark and cold. The wind _________________ (blow) and an owl _________________ (hoot) in a tree above me. I rubbed my eyes and started to get up, when suddenly I _________________ (hear) a splash. I _________________ (look) down at the water and saw something. Something terrible and frightening, and unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Something _________________ (come) out of the water and _________________ (move) towards me. Something green and strange and ugly. It was a long green arm and it _________________ (stretch) out from the water to grab my leg. I was so scared that I couldn’t move. I _________________ (never be) so scared in my whole life. The cold green hand _________________ (move) closer and closer when suddenly there was a blue flash and a strange noise from behind me. Someone _________________ (jump) onto the stairs next to me. He _________________ (wear) strange clothes and he had a crazy look in his eyes. He shouted “Get Back!” and _________________ (point) something at the monster in the water. There was a bright flash and the monster hissed and disappeared.

I looked up at the man. He looked strange, but kind. “Don’t fall asleep by the river when there’s a full moon”, he said “The Moon Goblins will get you.” I _________________ (never hear) of moon goblins before. I didn’t know what to do. “Who… who are you?” I asked him. “You can call me… The Doctor.” He said. I _________________ (try) to think of something else to say when he turned around and said, “Watch the stars at night, and be careful of the full moon”. I was trying to understand what he meant, when there was another blue flash and I closed my eyes. When I opened them again, he _________________ (go).

I couldn’t believe what _________________(happen). What on earth were Moon Goblins, and who was the mysterious Doctor? And why had he saved me? I was determined to find the answers to these strange questions. I stood up, looked at the moon and quickly walked home.

Would you like to know what happens next in the story?
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE NEXT EPISODE IN WHICH THE STORY CONTINUES: EPISODE 30 “THE MYSTERY CONTINUES”

Other episodes:
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO ANOTHER EPISODE ABOUT VERB TENSES
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO AN EPISODE ABOUT THE DOCTOR WHO TV SHOW

  • Sebastián

    Have you ever thought about doing audio books? Your accent (or lack of it) it’s a lot easier to listen than the majority audio books I’ve heard, I’d paid for it and I think that I am not the only one!

  • ptholome/Antonio

    This episode has been Proofread by Andromeda team: Jilmani.
    docs.google.com/document/d/1NijWjDSeQ0VBHQT-v7mZHxdikD07gvATo9Ylq8fVr8k/edit?usp=sharing

  • Benyamin Jilmani

    1/15 my scores 6/10 tenses are difficult but i think i get them now.

  • Ethan

    Thanks Jilmani for 15day challenge. Listening to this episode felt like reading a book that was sitting in my bookshelf for many years.

  • Anatoly Goncharov

    Hello! Thank you for the episode! I enjoyed it a lot. And it’s (almost) a full moon now, what a coincidence! :)

  • Jilmani

    This episode is one of my favourites. I can’t get bored of it. Hope you upload episodes like this again they’re amazing.

    • Cat

      Hi Jilmani! :)
      What an exciting challenge you’ve created for us!!! And to choose a grammar quiz for the start — OMG! That was quite difficult, this one! :)
      I definitely have to start to learn English grammar. Wanna help me? :))
      Cheers,
      Cat

      • Jilmani

        Hi Cat how are you?

        I didn’t know that you had joined! I’m glad you did. I was about to ask you to join :P

        And sure I’d love to help you Cat.

      • Cat

        Yes, I joined an hour ago, I think. :))
        Cool stuff! I love quizzes, especially those done by Lepsters like you! ;))
        I’m happy to have reached 8 out of 10. :)))