SPEAKING: Talking about past events and telling stories

Part of improving your English is the ability to talk about past experiences and story telling. So what’s special about past experiences and story telling? How is it different to the normal past tense?

Here are some of the points that are used when talking about past experiences and storytelling.

Often  describes feelings and emotions

  • Basic past: It was very. It was similar to what existed 500 years ago.
  • Storytelling / past experiences: I felt like I had travelled back in time half a millennium.

 Uses exaggerated or expressive words

  • Basic past: There was a lot of Renaissance art.
  • Storytelling / past experiences: There was an overwhelming range of Renaissance art.

Uses idiomatic phrases

  • Basic past: Very close, nearby
  • Storytelling / past experiences: never more than a stone’s throw from somewhere 

Uses narrative style adjectives

  • Basic past: The large gardens were impressive.
  • Storytelling / past experiences: The delightful gardens were beautiful.

Often uses more than one adjective

  • Basic past: I went to a little cafe
  • Storytelling / past experiences: I went to a quiet little cafe

Now practice! Read the short text below where the writer is talking about a trip to Florence in Italy, then answer the questions that follow.

The Wonders of Florence

Describing past experiences and story tellingThe first time I visited Florence was in 1990, I had never been to Italy before and it was very exciting to step out of the central train station, La Stazione della Santa Maria Novella, and into the ancient streets. The immediate impression I had was that the Tuscan township had been suspended in time, everything surrounding the train station, the beautiful church of Santa Maria Novella, the tenement buildings, even the shops and restaurants are all four or five hundred years old. I felt like I had travelled back in time half a millennium.

The first historical place I visited was the Uffizi Palace, the main art gallery, which houses paintings by artists such as Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo and Raphael amongst many others. There is an overwhelming range of Renaissance art, and after completing a round tour of all those extraordinary works of art, I found a quiet little cafe in which to relax with a truly authentic cappuccino. There is a vast choice of cafes and restaurants all around the Uffizi Gallery and almost everywhere within the central township you are never more than a stone’s throw from somewhere to indulge in fine Italian cuisine.

After visiting the Uffizi, I decided to investigate the magnificent Pitti Palace, located a short stroll across the Ponte Vecchio and adjacent to the delightful Boboli Gardens, the magnificent 14th century palace is a ‘must-see’. Within close quarters also are the Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza della Signoria and of course the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral the world renowned marvel of engineering designed by Fillipo Brunelleschi in the mid 15th century.

I strongly recommend spending at least a week in Florence to take in all the beautiful art and architecture and needless to say, to enjoy some of the wonderful gastronomic delights this beautiful Tuscan town has to offer.


Select the correct answers below

1. The writer thought Florence was

A. A good place for time travel
B. A gastronomic delight
C. A wonderful city to visit

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2. There are many artists’ houses in the Uffizi gallery

A. True
B. False
C. Not given

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3. The definition of ‘must see’ is

A. Something you shouldn’t see
B. Very easy to find
C. Highly recommended

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4. In the city centre there are many

A. Houses
B. Cafes and restaurants
C. Modern buildings

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5. The Santa Maria Del Fiore is

a A train station
b A famous cathedral
c An art gallery

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6. Choose the best synonym for a ‘stone’s throw’

a An easy target
b A stone building
c Nearby

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7. Gastronomic delights are

a Delicious food and drink
b Heavenly bodies
c Sightseeing attractions

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8. The writer recommends staying in Florence

a Less than a week
b No more than a week
c A minimum of a week

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9. The phrasal verb ‘take in’ used in the last paragraph means

a To accommodate someone or something
b To experience
c To compile information

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10. The main topic of the article is

a The cafes and restaurants of Florence
b The shops and tenement buildings
c The historical art and architecture

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