“Betrayal. That’s the first thing I feel, which is ludicrous. For there to be betrayal, there would have had to been trust first.”, The Hunger Games

I'm confused about "... would have had to been trust first." What kind of structure is this? Why is there a third form of a verb in a to-infinitive?

  • 2
    It might be worth comparing this to "would have had to have been". – Gary Botnovcan Dec 19 '18 at 16:12
  • Is this from the book or the film? If the film, is it your transcript, or are you quoting someone else. If the book, which chapter? – James K Dec 19 '18 at 20:33
  • @JamesK its from the book, at the very start of chapter 9, Part 1. – Sajad Khan Dec 20 '18 at 16:01

I believe this is an error in the book. The word "have" must be placed before "been". Errors like this in published books are rare, but they do happen occasionally.

Proofreading for this kind of mistake is difficult as your brain tends to "fill in the gaps" and include the word "have". One skill a proofreader needs is to read what is actually on the page, and not what you assume must be on the page.

  • James, I think this is actually a mishearing (and an authorial misrepresentation) of what AmE speakers actually say. As I mentioned in my downvoted answer, the speakers are saying "had to have been" there but have is almost inaudible, had tuv been, as the "v" gets swallowed up by the "b" of "been". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 20 '18 at 18:26
  • OP states that this is quoted from the book. – James K Dec 20 '18 at 20:42
  • Yes. That is what I meant by "authorial misrepresentation". Sorry if that was vague. The author of the book did not resort to "eye dialect" there, but had it been used, there could have been some indication that "have" is phonetically present, if only vestigially. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 20 '18 at 22:24

I believe this is what is called the "Conditional Perfect" tense.

Which combines would have and the past participle of the main verb had. I think there is an implied verb which may be confusing you:

For there to be betrayal, there would have had to (have) been trust first.


There would have had to been is ungrammatical. to been is not a valid infinitive clause.

A native speaker might say

... there would have had to've been


... there woulda had to've been eye dialect

so that the 'v' is barely audible as it becomes the labial 'b' of "been".

... there woulda had tuv been ... eye dialect

which can become:

... there woulda had toa been ... eye dialect


... there woulda had tuh been ... eye dialect

the same process that produces woulda from "would have" yielding toa or tuh from "to have".

  • As always, anonymous downvotes are not instructive. There's either someone out there who doesn't know what he or she is talking about, or who knows more about this than I do but doesn't care to enlighten me. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 20 '18 at 18:22

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