In this transcript it tells a story:

There's a story probably heard before: a brother and sister are abandoned in the woods by the parents. Soon they meet a witch, who locks the little boy in a shed and begins to fatten him up, planning to eat him.

Why it is not in past tense? Can we tell a story in present tense?

  • 1
    It's perfectly OK to use the present tense. I've found this article at Wikipedia concerning its use in narratives: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_present Commented Jul 19, 2014 at 15:55
  • If your story seems modern, current tense is better. But if your story seems historical, use past tense. Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 1:56

1 Answer 1


Present-tense narrative is common in jokes (A priest, a minister, and a rabbi walk into a bar...) and in some folktale traditions, and it has become something of a mannerism in some contemporary novels. In this case, however, the present tense is employed because the speaker is not actually telling the story but re-telling it and summarizing its key events. As I wrote in another context here

The convention in English for at least five hundred years has been that when you are describing an existing story/novel/drama/opera you employ the present tense, as if the story were unfolding before your eyes.

Plot summaries in programs and critical works are almost always cast in the 'historical present'.

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