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The Ukrainian army on Saturday reported 11 attacks on its positions in the past 24 hours but no one was killed or wounded.

If I change was to had been, how will the meaning be affected?

The Ukrainian army on Saturday reported 11 attacks on its positions in the past 24 hours but no one had been killed or wounded.

I asked an English native speaker and he said that they are very similar and both mean pretty much the same thing but there is still a slight difference though. What is that slight difference apart from the fact that in the first instance the simple past tense is used and in the second the past perfect? It seems like they both can be used almost interchangeably because there's practically hardly any difference between them.

marked as duplicate by ColleenV, CRABOLO, StoneyB grammar Dec 14 '14 at 15:20

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  • Agree with everything you mention. I think the slight difference is like the difference between "1 and 2" and "1 then 2". – Damkerng T. Dec 13 '14 at 14:40
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    You only need to use past perfect when there may be ambiguity about which of two past events happened first. If there is no confusion about the timing, simple past is clearer. – ColleenV Dec 13 '14 at 19:11
  • See also FumbleFingers' Perfect Truism – StoneyB Dec 14 '14 at 3:30

The slight difference is in the "was" or "had" and the implication.

If I say, "No one was killed," it's a clear message that no deaths occurred because of the event. It's stating that it did not happen.

However, saying, "No one had been killed," can imply, depending on context, that we are speaking about that one instant and not for the instant after.

To make it clearer:

Did you take the cookie?

No, I didn't take the cookie.

No, I haven't taken the cookie.

"didn't" (akin to was) states that it did not happen.

"haven't" states that at this point in time, it didn't happen. Which leaves the, "but at another time, I might."

Again, the implication is contextual and can't be assumed by use of the word "had". For 99% of the usages, they are similar.

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