Telling stories is one of the most basic forms of communication. Most stories follow a common format in English:

  1. Setup: You describe the place, time, and what was happening.
  2. Event: You talk about an interesting thing that happened.
  3. Punchline: You describe the most important and interesting event.
  4. Reaction: You tell what you thought or how you acted in response to the punchline.
  5. Result: You say what happened after these events.

There are certain phrases that are common to use for each of these steps:


  • It was (adjective)

    It was early in the morning.

  • (someone) was (doing something)

    I was riding the train.

  • There was (something) (somewhere)

    There was a teenage guy sitting next to me.



  • (someone) did (something), and (result)

    I looked down at my shirt, and saw that there was a huge coffee stain!


  • I thought, "(sentence)"

    I thought, "How in the world did that get there? I don't even drink coffee!"

  • It was (emotion)

    It was so embarrassing!


  • So (someone) (did something)

    So I got off at the next stop and bought a new shirt.

  • Because of that, (something happened)

    Because of that, I was 30 minutes late to work that day.

  • Since then, (someone) always (does something)

    Since then, I always check my shirt before I leave the house.

Of course there are other phrases that you can use for each step, and sometimes you can skip a step or change the order. But in general, it's best to stick close to this outline because it makes it easier for the listeners to understand the point of the story.

PhraseMix Lessons on Storytelling:

Visit the category page for telling a story to see several examples of sentences to use when telling a story in English.

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