Human beings have been telling stories for centuries. Indeed, our traditions have all originated from stories told, retold and passed down the generations way before the written word was invented. Stories bring people together and build empathy among its tellers and listeners.

We all have a story to tell whether it’s funny, sad or serious. We all love to listen to stories because it makes us feel part of a community. Stories make you realise that you’re not alone in experiencing whatever you’re experiencing. This is especially important when it involves sensitive subjects such as mental illness, money problems, feelings of failure or low self-esteem. Being able to share your story and listen to other similar stories can be invaluable in making us feel less isolated.

An anecdote is a short story, funny or interesting, about an event that we share with people socially and professionally.

In this post, I want to give you some phrases in English you can use to tell your anecdote. In order to to capture your listener’s attention, the anecdote needs to have some structure. It needs:

✶ The introduction – This gives the background to the story and why people will find it interesting or funny.

✶  The beginning – To explain how the story started

✶ The story – Tell the main events in order

✶ The end – To make a final comment about the story or how things are now.

So let’s take a look at some phrases you could use to get started with each stage.

The Introduction

➢ You are not going to believe this, but ……….

➢ Did I ever tell you about the time I was …….?

➢ I’ll never forget the time I was ……….


The Beginning

➢ It’s quite a few years ago ……..

➢Talking of……that reminds of the time I……..

➢ This was around the time of ……..

➢ And you’ll never guess who/where/what…….


The Story

➢ You should have heard/seen …….

➢And then to top it all……

➢ And the strange/funny/stupid thing was……

➢Can you imagine my surprise when……

➢By the time I’d realised what had happened……


The End

➢Anyway, to cut a long story short……

➢So, in the end what happened was…..

➢ Seems quite funny now, but it didn’t at the time …….

➢Anyway, it turned out well in the end…..


Here are some reaction phrases you can use when actively listening to the story.

➢I’m not surprised

➢You’re joking?

➢I can imagine!

➢How odd!

➢What a nightmare!

➢ Sounds awful/terrible!

➢I don’t blame you.

➢Wow, that’s amazing!

➢Oh, I see what you mean.

➢Lucky you!

➢Oh my God!

➢ Were you really?

➢So, what happened?

➢You can’t be serious


Do you like telling stories and anecdotes? What’s the best/funniest story you recently heard? Do you use stories professionally?

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and colleagues. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for more free weekly lessons like this one.

Ciao for now


In Company Upper Intermediate Second Edition, Mark Powell (2010) Macmillan
OneStopEnglish Lesson Share by Gabrielle Jones (Macmillan 2013)


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