Causative Verbs

In English grammar, a causative verb is a verb used to indicate that some person or thing makes — or helps to make — something happen. Examples of causative verbs include make, cause, allow, help, have, enable, keep, hold, let, force, and require, which can also be referred to as causal verbs or simply causatives.

A causative verb, which can be in any tense, is generally followed by an object and another verb form—often an infinitive or a participle — and are used to describe something that happens because of a person, place, or thing whose actions bring about change in another entity.

Causative structures indicate that one thing or person causes another thing or person to do something or be something.

Examples of causatives

Have (give someone the responsibility to do something)

  • I had John fix the car
  • I had my hair cut

Make (force someone to do something)

  • The teacher made the students work in groups
  • Our boss made us work extra hours

Get (convince or trick someone into doing something)

  • He got the mechanic to repair the machine.
  • She got him to read more.

Let (allow someone do something)

  • Jane let her son go out
  • They let the children play in the yard

Other causative verbs

Other causative verbs include:

allow, help, enable, keep, hold, force, require, persuade

Causative Verbs Explained

Causative verbs express the idea of someone causing something to take place. Causative verbs can be similar in meaning to passive verbs.

Here are some examples for your comparison:
My hair was cut. (passive)
I had my hair cut. (causative)
In this example, the meaning is the same. Because it's difficult to cut your own hair, it's understood that someone else cut your hair.

The car was washed. (passive)
I got the car washed. (causative)

These two sentences have a slight difference in meaning. In the first, it's possible that the speaker washed the car. In the second, it's clear that the speaker paid someone to wash the car.

Generally speaking, the passive voice is used to place emphasis on the action taken. Causatives place the stress on the fact that someone causes something to happen.

Causative Verb Examples

Jack had his house painted brown and gray.
The mother made her son do extra chores because of his behavior.
She had Tom write up a report for the end of the week.

The first sentence is similar in meaning to: Someone painted Jack's house OR Jack's house was painted by someone. The second sentence indicates that the mother caused the boy to take an action. In the third, someone told someone to do something.

Make as a Causative Verb

'Make' as a causative verb expresses the idea that the person requires another person to do something.

Subject + Make + Person + Base Form of Verb

Peter made her do her homework.
The teacher made the students stay after class.
The supervisor made the workers continue working in order to meet the deadline.

Have as a Causative Verb

'Have' as a causative verb expresses the idea that the person wants something to be done for them. This causative verb is often used when speaking about various services. There are two forms of the causative verb 'have'.

Subject + Have + Person + Base Form of Verb

This form indicates that someone causes another person to take an action. Have someone do something is often used to management and work relationships.

They had John arrive early.
She had her children cook dinner for her.
I had Peter pick up the evening newspaper.

Subject + Have + Object + Past Participle

This form is used with services that are commonly paid for such as car washing, house painting, dog grooming, etc.

I had my hair cut last Saturday.
She had the car washed at the weekend.
Mary had the dog groomed at the local pet store. 

Note: This form is similar in meaning to the passive.

Get as a Causative Verb

'Get' is used as a causative verb in a similar way as 'have' is used with the participle. This expresses the idea that the person wants something to be done for them. The causative verb is often used in a more idiomatic manner than 'have'.

Subject + Get + Person + Past Participle

They got their house painted last week.
Tom got his car washed yesterday.
Alison got the painting appraised by an art dealer. 

This form is also used for difficult tasks we manage to complete. In this case, there is no causative meaning.

I got the report finished last night.
She finally got her taxes done yesterday.
I got the lawn done before dinner.

Have done = Get Done

Have done and get done have the same meaning when used to refer to paid services in the past.

I had my car washed. = I got my car washed.
She had her carpet cleaned. = She got her carpet cleaned. 

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