Is there any difference between past tense and reported speech?

I am confused about uses of tenses in the Newspaper especially about past events.

Sometimes reporters use simple past to tell two events, for example:

"He boarded the train at xyz station and after 10 min robbers entered in the coach."

And sometime he uses past perfect tense, for example:

"He had boarded the train at xyz station and after 10 min robbers entered in the coach."

Also from below sentences which sentence is use and when in past events?

  • (A) Police said that he robbed the victim.

  • (B) Police said that he had robbed the victim.

  • Neither Sentence A nor Sentence B is likely to be used, because most newspapers don't make such liberal use of pronouns. Who robbed who? Instead, it would be something more like: Police said the suspect robbed the victim.
    – J.R.
    Feb 4, 2016 at 10:28
  • As an aside, it should be the robbers entered the coach, not "entered in the coach".
    – stangdon
    Feb 4, 2016 at 15:14

1 Answer 1


Both are fully grammatical; both are fully idiomatic; both can be used to describe exactly the same sequence of events.

The difference is entirely in how the writer is positioning the viewpoint temporally in the sequence of events.

When the writer uses the past perfect ("had boarded" etc), they are locating the viewpoint of the story at a later time than the boarding. Sometimes this is because the viewpoint is already so positioned, because they have already talked about something that happened later. Sometimes they are positioning the viewpoint later in order to go on and talk about something that happened later. And sometimes the positioning is purely implicit, and has no practical consequence.

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