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Just the other day, I was talking to my mom about how the people who had been brave enough to take part in world war 2 were people we should look up to.

Just the other day, I was talking to my mom about how the people who have been brave enough to take part in world war 2 were people we should look up to.

Are both the above sentences grammatically correct? What's the difference in their meaning.

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This is called backshifting. When we use indirect speech, we often put the contents of the speech further in the past.

Let's first take a direct speech sentence:

Lekon Chekon said: "People who were brave enough to fight in WW2 should serve as examples to us".

Now let's report what Lekon Chekon said, and backshift the tenses he used:

Lekon Chekon said that people who had been brave enough to fight in WW2 should serve as examples to us.

This sentence employs indirect speech (no quotation marks). We backshifted were to had been.


Thus, your first sentence is correct. Note that even in the direct speech sentence we can use have been only if Lekon Chekon's words were pronounced during WW2:

In 2015, Lekon Chekon said: "People who have been brave enough to fight in WW2 should serve as examples to us". (WRONG: WW2 ended a long time ago)

In 1942, Lekon Chekon said: "People who have been brave enough to fight in WW2 should serve as examples to us". (RIGHT: WW2 is still going on)

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The first is the correct one.

The main difference between the two is that have been indicates that something happened in the past while there is something related still happening in the present. had been indicates that something happened in the past while another thing was happening (in the past also) and now they're all done.

I guess it is still not that clear. Lets take your sentence as an example. If WW2 was still going on, You could have been. But as the war had ended, you should use had been.

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