Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
past progressive grammar storytelling English

Have you heard somebody tell a good story in English?

Have you wondered what made it a good story?

Better yet, have you ever thought about what it takes to be a good storyteller?

We’re going to look at what makes a good story, and why this matters in English conversations and what specific English grammar you need to use to tell a good story.

In this next installment in our grammar series you’re going to learn about the past progressive, why it matters so much to story telling, and how to use it in your conversations and stories.

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What Makes A Good Story Teller?

You have probably heard plenty of good and bad stories–you may have told your fair share of both too.

So what makes someone a good storyteller?

This is an important thing within American culture because people love to tell and hear good stories, but it may be different in other cultures.

Recognizing that it plays an important part in English conversations, you want to learn what it takes to become a good story teller.

In the last episode in our grammar series on Episode 1361, we talked about how to use parallel structure to compose polished and professional business emails.

Today is the next installment in our series, and we’re focusing on how to use the past progressive to tell engaging stories.

You will use past progressive to talk about something that was happening when something else occurred.

You will find that you use it a lot when telling stories, and it’s a really important part of this process.

You would say something like “We were watching a baseball game when the lights went out. We couldn’t see anything!”

This is great for setting context when something surprising happened.

It also helps to get your listeners interested and wanting to learn more out of your story.

You will come to understand how this works, and why the past progressive is such a powerful part of good story telling.

Why Is Past Progressive Important For Storytelling?

We’ll get into what past progressive is, but you want to start by understanding how a good story should go.

Have you ever told a story to a group of people and in the middle of the story you see their eyes glaze over?

Just as you are getting into the details of your story, you notice that your audience looks bored and uninterested!

If you have had that feeling, then you know how awful it is!

Truthfully it happens to all of us, and so you want to figure out how to avoid this problem with storytelling.

Have you ever asked yourself what was missing from the story you were telling?

If you really stop to think about it there’s a good chance that most stories that go in the wrong direction are missing one thing–a good hook!

This is what draws people in and makes them want to listen to your story.

You can start a story by saying, “Last night something interesting happened to me.”

This is a hook that that will get your listener interested and wanting more.

Another example is if you said something like “I was sitting at home watching TV when the craziest thing happened!”

That hook draws them in and makes them want to hear your story.

It’s interesting, it is open ended, it leaves them guessing, and it makes them want to listen to your story to learn more.

A good hook is an important part of story telling, and it usually comes at the beginning.

You will learn that past progressive is what good stories are made of, so you want to understand what that means and how it works.

So What Is Past Progressive?

We talked about past progressive and the important role it plays in storytelling.

You know that storytelling is an important part of conversation, and so you want to look at the one element that helps yours to be successful.

You will come to see why past progressive is so important, so let’s get into what it is and how it exists.

  • Past progressive is used to describe something that was happening when another event took place.
  • The first part of the sentence uses the past tense of “to be”: was or were and then verb + “ing.” 
  • The second part of the sentence, or the other event that took place, will then use the simple past.

It might help you to see a couple of examples of this at work.

Here’s how it can work and you can start to see the pattern taking shape here.

“He was jumping when he broke his ankle.”

“They were eating when she arrive.”

Both of these sentences show past progressive, and you can understand how this works.

It can also be used with “while” and “as” to describe two actions that were taking place at the same time.

An example of this could be “I was making dinner while he was working upstairs.”

You may want to see how this looks in an actual story.

A good example of this will help to highlight how past progressive works and why it’s so important.

“While I was attending college, I had a near-death experience. I was driving on the freeway when I fell asleep and rolled my car. I wasn’t wearing my seat belt when the car flipped. As the car was rolling, I thought I wouldn’t survive.”

Now you can understand the importance of past progressive in storytelling, and what it is made up of.

Roleplay To Help

Storytelling is a very common part of conversation, and so you want to be good at it.

In this roleplay Aubrey is at a party and Lindsay shows up and wants to share a story.

Aubrey: “Okay I’m ready, hit me with it.”

Lindsay: “The other day I was running errands when something amazing happened! I was grocery shopping while I waited for a friend to get off work, and I saw the police come in and arrest someone.”

Aubrey: “Oh crazy! Do you know why?”

Lindsay: “Yes, he was shoplifting! The clerks were talking about it as I bought my groceries. “


We don’t want you to ever see anyone look bored when you’re telling a story!

Being a good storyteller makes people want to listen to you and it’s a great conversational skill overall.

This is an aspect of conversation that makes it easier to connect, make friends, and have interesting things to say to people.

It’s also an amazing feeling to tell a great story, and you can tell by the look on their faces if they’re interested.

The best way to hook your audience is with a great past progressive sentence.

Practice using these so that you are ready the next time you are talking to friends and have a great story to share.

This is a life skill when it comes to conversation, and you will be amazed at how it takes your stories to a whole new level.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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