English Grammar - Causative


Hi again. Welcome to www.engvid.com. I'm Adam. Today's lesson is the causative. Now, I get

asked many times how to construct and use the causative structure.

First of all, "What is the causative", you're wondering? If you have someone do something

for you, then you are using the causative voice. For example, if you have the waiter

bring you a glass of water, this is a causative. If you have your hair cut, that is a causative.

The difference -- active and passive -- we will look at that in a moment.

First thing we need to do is understand how to construct this sentence structure. So we're

going to have -- I broke it down into little pieces, everything that you can understand.

The difference between a causative sentence and a regular sentence is we use an agent

in the causative. We have a subject; we have the causative verb; we have the agent -- the

person or thing that is going to do something for you; we have the verb; and we have the


So first, the causative verb. There aren't that many that you will use. These are the

four most common ones: have, make, let, get. There are others, but the others are so obvious

that we don't need to worry about them too much, like "ask". "He asked someone to bring

him something." It's very clear. I think most people know how to use it. It's these four

that give people problems, especially these three. Why? Because I'm going to use a base

verb with them. With "get", I'm going to use an infinitive verb, "to" verb. Okay? So again,

subject -- "I" for example -- "had" -- you can go past. Whatever tense you're looking

for -- future, past, present -- this is going to take the tense, not this. Your causative

verb is going to take the tense. " 'I had' someone, 'I have', or 'I am having' someone,

'I will have' someone cut my hair." For example. I need a haircut, actually, now that I think

about it. So, "I had the barber -- in this case, cutting hair -- cut -- base -- my hair

-- object." Okay? The main thing to remember is that the agent can be a person or a thing,

okay? "I had" -- well, we'll talk about that in the passive. "I had the package delivered.

"That's object, still. "I had the car drive to somewhere else." It's a little bit strange

if you have an automatic car. I'll think of a different example for you after that, okay?

But agent, person, thing. Object could be direct object, the person. It could be indirect

object, so it's a thing or a person, what or who. So, "I had the barber cut my hair."

Now, what do these mean, these four verbs? Excuse me. These three -- have, make, and

get -- basically mean cause. You're causing someone to do something. But you're wondering,

"Okay. All of them mean cause. When do I use which one?" Right? It's a little bit of a

nuance, very subtle differences. When you "have someone do something", basically, you're

commissioning them; you're paying them. "I will have the painter paint my house." "I

will have the mechanic fix my car." These are services. You're paying someone to do


"I will make someone do something." You're a little bit forcing them, right? "I will

make my little brother clean my room. Why? Because he's my little brother. I'm bigger

than him. I can make him do things. So I will."

Get. "Get" is more like "convince". You persuade someone to do something for you, right? "I

will get my sister to do my laundry. Why? Because she's nice, and she likes me, and

I know how to speak to her. That's why".

"Let" is, basically, "give someone permission". So very clear. Have, make, get -- causing

it in its own way; let -- allow. Okay.

Then, this -- all of this is the active causative. "We make someone do something". But we can

also use the passive causative, in which case we have the subject; we have the causative

verb again; we have the object, next; and we have the verb in a past participle form.

Notice that we don't -- I didn't include the agent. You can include the agent. Usually,

it's obvious; you don't need to, right? So if I had my hair cut, who did it? The barber.

Do I need to say it was the barber? No. You understand that, right? So the agent is optional.

I'll put it in brackets, in parentheses.

Now, keep in mind that you will only use "have" and "get" -- excuse me. You will only use

"have" and "get" in the passive causative. You could use "make" and "let", but the structures

will be a little bit different, and it's a little bit uncommon to see these structures.

Very common to see "have" and "get". "I had my hair cut." Now, "cut" is a little bit confusing

because "cut", "cut" -- what's the difference? But "cut" is an irregular verb. Present tense,

"cut". Past tense, "cut". Past participle, "cut". Okay?

"I had my homework done for me" -- means I had somebody else do it for me, okay? I didn't

do it; somebody else did.

"I got my friend" -- oh, no. Sorry. That's the active. "I got my car fixed." Who? The

mechanic fixed it. "I got my car fixed." Meaning somebody else did it.

Now, all of this will be much easier to understand once you see actual example sentences. So

let's put those on the board.

Okay. So here we are. We're back. We have a few more examples to show you. Let's look

at the active sentences first.

"Sam made her boyfriend cut his hair." Sam's boyfriend -- Sam, Samantha, by the way, if

you're wondering -- her boyfriend had hair down to here. She didn't like it. She said,

"Cut your hair, or I will leave you." So he was, like, "Okay, fine. I'll go get a cut."

So she made him have his hair cut. Or she made her boyfriend cut his own hair. Sorry.

I was mixing a couple things. So he went to the bathroom, cut it -- everybody's happy.

"Cal let his friend borrow his car." Okay. "You want to borrow my car? Sure. Here you

go." "Let" is a little bit easier. I think everybody, because of the idea of "allow"

or "give permission", this is much easier to understand. But it's still a causative

because you have an agent, etc.

"Jane got her sister to sew her a dress". Jane is having her prom next week. She wants

a beautiful dress to her prom. A "prom", by the way, is at the end of high school, you

have a big dance; everybody comes and dances and eats and celebrates. Everybody dresses

really nicely. Jane needed a dress. She got her sister to sew her a nice dress because

her sister is very nice.

"You should have the school call the boy's parents". Now, your son is having a problem

at school. There's a bully. Somebody is beating up your son. You should have the school call

the boy's parents and talk to them, make sure they do something about this, okay?

So all of these are active. The subject is causing the agent to do something. Good.

Here we have the passive. I only have "had" and "get", okay? "Bill had his house painted."

His house was getting old; he wanted it to freshen up; he wanted a new coat of paint.

He could have painted it himself, but instead, he had it painted. Now, who painted it? Well,

it was a painter, of course. I didn't mention it because it's kind of obvious from "paint",


"I get my groceries delivered". "Groceries" -- all the things from the supermarket that

I need at home. I don't like to go to the supermarket and shop and carry all my things

home. I call them; I tell them what I need; they deliver it. So I get my groceries delivered

to me. Who delivers it? I don't know. I don't care. I have groceries. I'm eating. I'm happy.

It's not important. But if you're not sure how to use the passive, check my previous

lesson I have on www.engvid.com about the passive. It will explain why I do or do not

put the agent here, okay?

Of course, if you need more exercises, if you need more examples, go to www.engvid.com.

There's a quiz there that you can try out. And come again soon, and we'll do another

lesson. Thanks.