From The Hunger Games:

My next guest is also unexpected. Madge walks straight to me. She is not weepy or evasive, instead there’s an urgency about her tone that surprises me. “They let you wear one thing from your district in the arena. One thing to remind you of home. Will you wear this?” She holds out the circular gold pin that was on her dress earlier. I hadn’t paid much attention to it before, but now I see it’s a small bird in flight.

The past perfect tense (had + verb-ed) is used when we're referring to a past event that happened before another past event. But the sentence in question doesn't mention the other past event, so I suppose it is implied but what is it?

The excerpt is the third mention of the pin. The other two are quite far from it, my excerpt being from Chapter 3 and the others from Chapter 1, just a few paragraphs away from each other:

“You won’t be going to the Capitol,” says Gale coolly. His eyes land on a small, circular pin that adorns her dress. Real gold. Beautifully crafted. It could keep a family in bread for months.

“It’s to the Capitol’s advantage to have us divided among ourselves,” he might say if there were no ears to hear but mine. If it wasn’t reaping day. If a girl with a gold pin and no tesserae had not made what I’m sure she thought was a harmless comment.

I suppose that that was on her dress earlier refers to these two quotes from Chapter 1.

  • I think the text is badly written. If I was proofreading it, I'd switch hadn't paid to I didn't pay much attention to it before..., because there's absolutely nothing about the context to justify that "past within the past" Perfect verb form - it's just pointless verbosity and that might sometimes be distracting. Nov 25, 2023 at 17:40

1 Answer 1


The event in the past is noticing what the pin is. Even though the speaker goes on to say in the present "now I see that", by using the past perfect, she is placing the moment when she noticed in the past, even though it was just an instant ago.

She could have used the present perfect, but in this sort of context, the past perfect is quite common. I think there might be an implied clause of "until she showed it to me".

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