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Israeli media, citing rescue service officials, said at least 300 people were killed, including 26 soldiers, while in Gaza officials said 313 people had died. An Israeli military official said hundreds of militants had been killed and dozens captured.From Apnews

Here I can't figure out the difference between the use of the past simple and the past perfect.

I thought there is little difference. Both are giving an account of the deaths in the past, though the past perfect refers to time up to then.

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  • The text you quote doesn't appear at that link. Can you give us the correct source?
    – gotube
    Oct 9, 2023 at 7:13
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    It's hard to answer this without a more specific description of what happened and how information was made available. My guess would be that the second and third refer to specific incidents when someone gave a figure, but the first is more of a general summary of what media are saying. However, I don't know if this is the case.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 9, 2023 at 11:59

2 Answers 2

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  • "Were" refers to an event in the past.
  • "Had been" refers to a past event before another event in the past.

In your example you are referring to the event of people being killed before the second event of it being reported in the media, so "had been" would be logical choice. However, either would be fine, because the media themselves would have said "300 people were killed", so by using that tense it just sounds like you are quoting them verbatim.

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The grammar in that context is interchangeable. The writer changed tenses for the same reason they changed verbs: for variety.

It could be rewritten this way without changing the meaning at all (though losing some style points):

Israeli media, citing rescue service officials, said at least 300 people had been killed, including 26 soldiers, while in Gaza officials said 313 people died.

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  • Downvote with no comment?
    – gotube
    Oct 9, 2023 at 23:30

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