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What should I use in the following sentence

Hundreds of people were killed ________ the earthquake.

In my book there are two options

  1. By

  2. From

I think it should be by because by shows the person or thing that does something. But in my book from is the correct answer.

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    It should be by (or in or during). From doesn't make any sense in this particular sentence. Jul 2, 2020 at 5:42

2 Answers 2

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In neither North American nor UK English would "killed from the earthquake" be natural. I am not sure about Indian English. Nor would one say "killed from the storm" or indeed "killed from" in any construction. It might be logical, but it is simply not ever used, in my experience. Anyone saying this would be thought to speak English poorly.

Note this Google NGram which shows the usage of "killed from the" to be essentially zero in the Google English_2019 corpus, more than 100 times less frequent than "killed by the" or "killed in the".

Hundreds of people were killed by the earthquake

indicates that the earthquake was the actual cause of their deaths, but dies not distinguish between deaths directly caused by the earthquake (such as by people falling into a sinkhole), and deaths caused less directly by the quake, as by people crushed by falling buildings, burned by fires started during the quake, or trapped and dying of exposure, thirst, and so on. The same is true for other disasters such as "storm" or "explosion". Howevcer, where there is an active agency, the use of "by" tends to limit the statement to events caused directly by that agency.

Dozens of people were killed by the shooter.

would suggest that those people were actually shot and killed, and would not usually include, say, people dying of heart attacks or traffic accidents resulting from the shooting.

The sentence

Hundreds of people were killed during the earthquake.

specifies the time period and not the cause. This sentence might include people dying from, say, lack of medical care, or even people killed by looters. Again the same applies to other causes such as "storm" or "riot".

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  • THe GloWbE corpus gives no evidence of this being a feature of Indian English either.
    – Colin Fine
    May 8, 2022 at 17:53
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    @Colin Fine I am not surprised, but did not want to assert that without evidence or extensive experience of Indian English. May 8, 2022 at 17:57
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"killed by the earthquake" could mean the earthquake was actively killing people. It is different from 'the building was destroyed by the earthquake' (the earthquake was actively destroying the building)

"Hundreds of people were killed from the earthquake" can be broken down to "Hundreds of people were killed, from (implies from an outcome of) the earthquake

"Hundreds of people were killed in or during the earthquake" would also be grammatical, but 'in' and 'during' are not in the list of choices, so you have to pick between 'by' and 'from' and 'from' is the correct one.

Similarly:

"Hundreds of people were killed by the riot" would be wrong because a riot itself doesn't actively kill people

"Hundreds of people were killed from the riot" would indicate people were killed, from the outcome of the riot.

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  • -1 In neither North American nor UK English would "killed fronm the earthquake" be natural. I am not sure about Indian English. Nor would one say "killed from the storm" or indeed "killed from" in any construction. It might be logical, but it is simply not ever used, in my experience. Anyone saying this would be thought to speak English poorly. May 8, 2022 at 17:21

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