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I recently came across the following passage, which starts like this:

As my sister began telling me about the scorpion in her bed that stung her as she slumbered, I could feel my eyes popping out of my head.

But, I think that it should have been:

As my sister began telling me about the scorpion that had stung her as she had slumbered, I could feel my eyes popping out of my head.

Context: it's happening in the past, and one of the two characters is telling a story that happened earlier that day.

That’s why I thought the story part of the passage should have been in past perfect- but for some reason, it’s in the past tense.

What could be the reason for that?

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    This is more evidence that the rules you are taught in English class and textbooks are not correct. Native speakers don't make this kind of mistake. Past perfect is complicated and resorted to only if necessary. We don't do around looking for opportunities to say verbs in the past perfect. Normally, especially if we're filling in background on a story, the past tense is the right tense. Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 14:46
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    Just to confuse the issue, I'd go with 'As my sister began telling me about the scorpion in her bed that had stung her as she slumbered, ...'. My preferred style choice here, but none ungrammatical. Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 16:44
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    Avoid using the past perfect when the simple past is good enough.
    – StephenS
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 1:27

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As my sister began telling me about the scorpion in her bed that stung her as she slumbered, I could feel my eyes popping out of my head.

The two actions are taking place at the some time. They will be, usually, in the same tense.

"that stung her as she slumbered" is a relative clause. Its tense is not dependent upon other tenses - it is separate as it is used to describe a noun.

For example you can say "that will sting her when she falls asleep"

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    It stands to point out that it's also not incorrect to say "the scorpion that had stung her as she slumbered", and while not likely to be said by a native speaker, OP's suggestion is also grammatical.
    – R. Barrett
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 20:23
  • There is surely another way of looking at it. 'as' is a durational conjunction and makes 'began' a continuous past ('imperfect' in old Latin money). So the stinging event can be seen and a simple past or as a (in old money) 'pluperfect'. I think the questioner's observation is perceptive. Either 'stung' or 'had stung' is possible.
    – Tuffy
    Commented Mar 8, 2023 at 21:48

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