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Telling Stories
A problem-solving approach to learning about
Telling Stories
Hundreds of years ago, speakers of English spoke differently from speakers of present-day
English. Can you work out what some of these differences are, based on the information
that you can see below?
In the first column, there is a list of sentences written in present-day English. In the second
column, the sentences are written in Early Modern English (spoken from about 1500 to
about 1700). Some of the sentences are the same, some are different. Can you match up the
Early Modern English sentence with its present-day partner?
HINT: In present-day English we use ‘you’ when we are talking to just one person, or when
we are talking to more than one person, but speakers of other languages make a difference
between addressing just one person [which we can call ‘you (singular)’] and more than one
[‘you (plural)’]. In many European languages, the word for ‘you (singular)’ begins with a tor a d- (e.g. tu in French, du in German).
Column 1
Column 2
I love
he loveth
you (singular) love
thou lovest
he loves
I sing
I sing
I love
you (singular) sing
she hath
she sing
thou singest
I have
thou hast
you (singular) have
I have
she has
she singeth
Telling Stories
You have just learned about a bit of grammar called PERSON. Person is the term we use to
talk about different participants in an event, such as the speaker, the person spoken to, and
others. We make a distinction between the first person (the speaker), the second person (the
addressee), and the third person (others). We can see person differences in the singular
pronouns (I = first person; you = second person; he, she and it = third person) in
contemporary English. In earlier English, speakers could use thou to refer to just one
addressee. The different endings on the verbs also relate to person: for example, the verb
ended in –st if the subject was second person singular (e.g. thou lovest/singest/hast).
Link to narrative
Stories can be presented from different points of view. A first-person point of view is one
where the narrator is a character who presents the events from their perspective; first-person
narrators refer to themselves as I or we. A second-person point of view often involves the
reader being addressed (as you), as if the reader is a character in the story. A third-person
point of view has the characters referred to as he, she or it. The narrator often seems like an
observer, rather than a character in the story.
Here is the start of The Diary of a Killer Cat. Do you think this involves a first-, second- or
third-person point of view? How do you know?
Okay, okay. So hang me. I killed the bird. I’m a cat. It’s practically my job to go creeping
round the garden after little eensy-weensy birdy-pies that can hardly fly from one hedge to
the other.
What do you think the effect of writing from this point of view is? For example, do you
think it’s funny to present the events of the story from this point of view? Why?
Telling Stories