Narrative tenses are verb tenses that are used to talk about the past. We usually find them in stories, textbooks, spoken accounts and descriptions of past events. In English, there are 4 narrative tenses: past simple, past continuous, past perfect and past perfect continuous. One or more of these can be found in a sentence. That is why ESL learners face obstacles while using narrative tenses.

Previously we have designed activities to practise narrative tenses with groups and in pairs, as well as exercises that students can complete individually.

Taking into account the importance of narrative tenses in English here we present three types of online interactive exercises that will definitely come in handy. The tasks are suitable for Intermediate and Upper Intermediate level.

Task 1. Match the pairs

The exercise presented is an introduction and the first step to learn narrative tenses. Students find logical pairs and match them on Learning Apps. Ask them to paraphrase each sentence and to explain when the events in these sentences happened. If necessary, you can also compare the equivalents in their mother tongue.

Task 2. Fill in the gaps with the correct tense form

After matching the pairs and getting a more clear understanding of narrative tenses, your students can do this exercise. Here they must fill in the gaps with the correct tense form of the verb given in the brackets. This will help them get more practice.

Task 3. Choose the correct tense form

The final step is to be able to use all narrative tenses in one story. Here is an extract from a CNN news article — a love story in the elevator. In this interactive exercise, students must choose the correct tense form of the verbs, paying attention to the whole story.

I am pretty sure these exercises will help your students better understand narrative tenses in English and use them properly.

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Комментарии (5)
  • Фото аватара

    thank you in advance.It was very helpful

  • Фото аватара

    There are a couple of errors.
    2. I was listening to it.
    6. asked him to go to the office.
    8. … when the burglar broke in.

    • Фото аватара

      Good evening! Thanks for your feedback. In the second sentence we have two right answers «was listening» and «had been listening». Both of them an be considered right depending on the context.
      As for the 6th and 8th sentences, there are no mistakes. Everything is right.

  • Фото аватара

    Why did you turn off the radio? I had been listening to it. — this is the right answer 🙂

    • Анна Михайлова (Левина) Автор блога
      Анна Михайлова-Левина

      Good afternoon! We pass on the author’s response:
      «The right answer is ‘I was listening to’. However, depending on the context ‘had been listening to’ could be right as well».


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