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Interactive video lesson plan for: Present for the past: BBC English Masterclass

Activity overview:

http://www.bbclearningenglish.com
Of course you all know that we use the present to talk about the present - and you also probably know that we use the present to talk about the future... But did you know that we also use the present to talk about the past?! Join Sian as she shares a few ways we do this - and a hilarious joke! For more, visit our website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/course/towards-advanced/unit-3/session-1

TRANSCRIPT
Hi Sian here for BBC Learning English. I have a great joke for you.

So, a pony walks into a bar and whispers "Can I have a beer."
The barman replies, "Of course you can, but why are you whispering?"
And the pony says "Because I'm a little hoarse."
Get it? A pony is 'a little horse'!

Ok, it's not the best joke, but did you notice what tense I used to tell the joke?
I used the present not the past. We often use the present to talk about the past, so I'm going to share with you a few ways that we do this.

Number one: When telling an exciting story

Last year I was swimming off the coast of New Zealand, when suddenly I see a shark coming up behind me. Everyone starts screaming. I swim as fast as I can… It was very scary!

Did you notice? I started the story in the past, and then when I got to the exciting part of the story, I switched to the present. We do this to make the exciting part of the story more dramatic for the listener.

Number two: In newspaper headlines
I actually made it into the newspapers after that scary experience. Here is the headline:

Terrified swimmer is chased out of sea.

So, newspaper journalists often use the present simple 'is chased' rather than the past 'was chased'. They do this to make the story more fresh and immediate and dramatic.

Number three: With hear, tell, gather, say
I hear you're getting married!

Did you notice, I used the present form of 'hear' rather than the past? We do this because we want to put more emphasis on what I heard, rather than the fact that I heard it.

We also do it with verbs like, say, tell and gather. For example, She says she's leaving the country!

Number four: When telling jokes
I've got a joke. A pony walks into a bar and...
Don't worry, I'm not going to tell the joke again! But we use the present simple when telling jokes to make the joke more exciting and more immediate for the listener.
For more information about using the present to talk about the past and to practise this, go to our website: bbclearningenglish.com. And I'm not joking!

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