English grammar – Causative

Form

have + object + verb 3 (past participle) – have something done
have + object + infinitive – have someone do something

Meaning

  1. Causative is used when arranging for someone to do something for us.
    • They had their car repaired. (they arranged for someone to repair it)
    • They repaired their car. (they did it themselves)
    • I had my hair cut yesterday. (I went to the hairdresser)
    • I cut my hair yesterday. (I cut it myself)
  2. Causative is also used when someone does something to us.
    • Bill had his money stolen.
  3. have someone do something can be used to talk about giving instructions or orders (more common in American English).
    • I had my assistant type the report.
    • I’ll have my lawyer look into it.

Additional points

Get is possible instead of have, usually in informal spoken English.

  • I’m going to have my car fixed tomorrow.
  • I’m going to get my car fixed tomorrow.

Related grammar points

Passive

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21 teaching ideas and comments

  1. Timita

    I give each student a drawing of a town, with lots of different businesses. I first elicit what each business does (i.e. in the hair salon they cut your hair, at the mechanic they fix your car… etc) to check vocabulary. Then I introduce the grammar and ask what you can have done in each, for example:

    In the hair salon I can have my hair cut, at the mechanic I can have my car fixed. etc.

    • Masilbi

      Great idea. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Houcine

    I write the following sentence on the board:

    I have my hair cut every week.

    1. Elicit the form from the students (have/has + noun + past participle)
    2. Use the following concept questions to elicit YES or NO:

    Do I cut my hair? Ss: NO
    Does somebody else cut my hair? Ss: YES
    Do I pay money? Ss: YES

    3. If you cut your hair yourselves, how would you say that? I elicit: I cut my hair.
    4. Elicit that every week expresses “a habit”, and have is in the present simple tense.
    5. Write the following on the board:

    house/clean

    and elicit…

    I have my house cleaned.

    I repeat the concept questions to make sure that students grasp the new structure, and drill it (whole class/individuals).
    6. Written practice.

  3. Poppy

    I ask the class who is scared of going to the dentists. Then I tell them all the work I had done when I was young (6 teeth out, a brace for 2 years, now I’m having my wisdom teeth out) and put them in pairs to tell their partners how much dental work they’ve had done (extra vocab too).

    Then you can elicit a few modal sentences from one of the students, put it on the board and clarify the form and meaning.

    In changing it into the active it can be quite funny, as you can’t really take our own wisdom teeth out. You can even bring in some gory pictures! :)

  4. Anonymous

    I put on the board pictures showing

    a.) broken down car
    b.) mechanic repairing it.

    Then I say:

    I had a problem with my car and took it to the mechanic and write on the board:

    I had my car fixed.

    Then ask:

    a) Did I fix it? Students answer “No”
    b) Did the mechanic fix it? Students answer “yes”
    c) Did I pay for it? They answer “yes”.

    Finally I write on the board the form of causative.

  5. Τ.Ι.

    it is right to say
    I had my house painted ?

    • Eslbase

      Hi T.I.

      Yes, that sentence is correct.

    • carlos

      remember to start your question with “is” instead of “it” :3

  6. ISWARAWATI

    I’m sure this can help my conversation class study well. Thank you.

    • Harry

      Is saying
      Did marvin had his hair cut?
      Correct?

      • Eslbase

        “Did Marvin have his hair cut?” is correct.

        In a yes/no question we don’t put the main verb into the past tense, because the auxiliary verb “Did” shows us the tense.

        Hope that helps.

        • Parsa

          Why you didn’t use “has”?
          “Did Marvin has his hair cut?”

          • Eslbase

            Hi Parsa

            When we make a question in past simple, the auxiliary verb “did” is in past simple, and the main verb goes back to the base form (have).

            I hope this helps.

  7. Ivona

    What would be the correct answers here?

    A: John looked different somehow.
    B: He_______________ . (his hair)(cut)
    A: Yes, and I think he ___________________ . It looked much smarter! (his jacket)(cleaned)

    • Eslbase

      A: John looked different somehow.

      There are a few possibilities for this. For example:

      B: He has had his hair cut.
      B: He must have had his hair cut.
      B: Maybe he had his hair cut.

      A: Yes, and I think he had his jacket cleaned. It looked much smarter!

  8. Waheed Elgabry

    What’s the answer?
    He wants to fix his car. ( use : had).

    • Eslbase

      You could try:
      “He wants to have his car fixed”.

  9. Geraldine Castellanos

    How would it be with the following examples?

    – I didn’t see them. They went away for their summer holidays.
    – We may have the day off and perhaps we might go to U2 concert.
    – She doesn’t want to talk to me. so I can’t help her.
    – Maggie was in the garden. Therefore, her dinner burnt.
    – Paul is sad because he can’t see his friends due to coronavirus.

    • Eslbase

      Hi Geraldine – what kind of sentences do you want to change these to?

  10. Rizwan Ali

    Please make clear my concept.

    1. She always has me do her work.
    2. She always have me do her work.

    Which one is gramatically correct?

    • Eslbase

      This one is correct:
      1. She always has me do her work.

      I have
      You have
      She has
      We have
      They have

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