For example, one day my roommate came back from tripping on acid down by the river, telling me about a racoon he had seen, dead and frozen, still hanging onto a fallen willow. It had freaked him out because he had not been sure wether it had been alive or dead, but after a while of it not moving and him not moving staring at it he figured it was dead- still too scared to make sure of it though

Just would like to know why it is not "had figured" as it happened before the roommate came back from this tripping (before RT) but after it had freaked out....

A)Is it because the other verbs in the sentence are already past perfect so it was not necessary to put the last one past perfect.
B)Is it because at RT (when he came back)the sentence was still true(the raccoon was dead)think this is one is a better reason.

  • What is RT? And what is the source of the text? Jan 18, 2016 at 17:34
  • reference time it is an article written in a magazine called no friends
    – Yves Lefol
    Jan 18, 2016 at 17:53
  • 4
    @CopperKettle: Presumably Reference Time, which may or may not be subtly different to Narrative Time. user5577 - my advice would be to stick with simple past after the first sentence. The temporal relationships are quite clear from the semantics, so all those past perfects just make the text unnecessarily complex for no benefit. Personally I wouldn't even bother with it in telling me about a raccoon he had seen - to me, plain a raccoon he saw is perfectly valid in such contexts. Jan 18, 2016 at 17:56
  • This is what I think!!
    – Yves Lefol
    Jan 18, 2016 at 18:00
  • The author was trying to use reported speech, where everything is pushed back a tense. The full stop after "fallen willow" breaks the reported speech, and it would have been better to continue in past simple. Even the author lost the plot by "figured" and switched back to past simple.
    – JavaLatte
    Apr 2, 2016 at 18:45

1 Answer 1


You narrate a story about your flatmate, so it is in the past, and in that story, your flatmate narrates a story too, so it has to be in the past perfect, for good coordination of tenses. Then, there is an interruption in that series of events, which takes only an instant: "he figured" - simple past.

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