I am not sure which tense I should use in the following paragraph. I put double () the parts. Should I change this to past tense, and if so, why? Thank you so much.

A breaking news about a car accident has just come in. According to the reporter, a commercial truck and an automobile ((had crushed)) head on, causing a gas leak and fire. Surprisingly, it seems like one of the drivers, although injured, had made a call to the police before another driver passed the scene of the accident and called 911. Although one of the drivers ((has suffered)) severe injuries, all drivers and passengers ((have survived)) the accident. They had already been transported to the nearest hospital for medical attention when the reporter Jacobs arrived. The fire department ((has succeeded)) in putting out fire rather quickly and there was no further spread of fire nor explosion.

  • There are many times in English where you can use either the perfect or the simple past. Why do you think only one is correct here? Jan 25, 2015 at 4:04

2 Answers 2


The past perfect tense is used when you need to express the order that two past events occurred. If the order of the past events is easy to understand from the context, using the simple past tense is clearer.

For example, "I had read the book and I went to the movie to see how the director interpreted the story." If I used the simple past tense, there might have have been some confusion about whether I read the book first, or saw the movie first.

I would use simple past for this sentence "According to the reporter, a commercial truck and an automobile crashed head on causing the gas leak..." There isn't a lot of doubt that the crash came before the leak.

"Although one driver suffered severe injuries, everyone survived the accident." I would also use simple past here because there is no confusion about when the people survived or when the severe injuries occurred.

"The fire department has succeeded in putting out fire rather quickly and there was no further spread of fire nor explosion." This is present perfect, not past perfect, and it is used to talk about events that happened in the past when it doesn't matter exactly when they happened. I think it's appropriate in this sentence because it's not important exactly when the fire was put out, the reader just wants to know that the danger is over now.


Using has/have + PP gives a flair of something that has happened recently. When it comes to news, if you use this structure, it will convey the message that all those things happened recently. Imagine a TV reporter speaking this news LIVE right from the spot. Say, for example, the driver has suffered from head injuries.

If you are reading a newspaper, it would use had at that place. For the same example, the next day newspaper would read the driver had suffered from head injuries.

This said, both has/had are possible but the former talks about the recent past as compared to the latter one.

  • 1
    On that topic, you might look up the "hot news" perfect.
    – user230
    Sep 26, 2014 at 16:54

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