Have/Get (Causatives)

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What is a causative verb?

Causative verbs show that the subject of the sentence instigated (caused) an action, but didn’t perform it; the action was done for them by someone else.

I checked the pipes. → I did this myself
I had the plumber check the pipes. → I told/asked the plumber to do this for me

The causative verbs in English are have and get, and there are a few different ways we can use them.

Read on to learn the different causative structures with have and get, then practise everything in the free exercise.

have someone do something

The structure have + person + infinitive means that we asked, paid or persuaded someone to do something for us.

I washed the dishes.
→ I had John wash the dishes because I was tired.

We often use this in the context of paid services.

We had the plumber check the pipes.

This structure exists in all tenses:

Jess isn’t happy with the colour, so she is having the decorator repaint. (present progressive)
He has had the doctor do all different tests, but they still have no answers. (present perfect simple)
I have the hairdresser style my hair whenever I have an appointment. (simple present)

have/get something done

In the passive, the above structure becomes: have something done: have + object + past participle.

Usually, the agent is omitted and the focus is on the service provided.

We had the plumber check the pipes. (active)
We had our pipes checked. (passive)

If we want to introduce the agent, we use by.

We had our pipes checked by the plumber.

We can also use get in place of have in this form, although this is more informal.

We got our pipes checked.

Check out our page on the passive voice to learn more about the phrase have/get something done.

get someone to do something

The final causative structure is get + person + infinitive with to.

This form means to persuade, convince, cajole or even force someone to do something.

I got Patrick to attend the party even though he didn’t want to.
Give the kids chocolate to get them to be quiet.
The police got the suspect to talk.

This form exists in all tenses, but not in the passive.