Last night I read a book, called The Hunger Games, and it was write “I had a whole life.”

I am questioning myself because for me Having a whole life is related to the present, it means she has had a whole life before, it’s her experience. Tell me if I am wrong.

I know that if the action (to have a whole life) takes place before another action, we will use the past perfect:

“She had had a whole life before they took it from her.”

So can you tell me if “I had a whole life” is correct or do we have to say:

“I have had a whole life”

Or maybe both are correct?

I have difficulties to make the difference between the past simple and the present perfect.

  • 1
    Can you tell us the title of the book and give more context (what was happening when she said this)? Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 15:05
  • The book is the hunger games. She said that she had a whole life to another people. She tell him that before now she had a whole life and they took it from her. So i do not understand why we dont use present perfect (i’ve had a whole life) or past perfect (i had had a whole life)
    – Flo
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 15:09
  • By the way, in English, we report speech with double quotes "like this", not chevrons or guillemets « like this ».
    – stangdon
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 15:39
  • I'm afraid your explanation doesn't make sense. Depending on the context, any of your suggestions might work. So might the original version. Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 5:17

1 Answer 1


The present tense is I have a whole life.

The character says "I had a whole life." (She used to have a full life, and it has been taken away from her). I assume whole refers to the kind of life she had, and 'taking it from her' means that she was made to accept a different lifestyle, not that her life ended.

She would only say "I have had a whole life" if she thought she was about to die and her life was almost over.

  • Thank you kate bunting for your answer I understand now
    – Flo
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 18:13

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