Causative verbs in details

This post helps you understand causative verbs in English and how to use them.

What are causative verbs?

Causative verbs, as the name indicates, are the verbs that indicate that a person, usually the subject, causes another person to do an action for them or someone else. You can cause someone to do something by requesting, forcing, ordering, coaxing, asking, convincing, or simply paying.

Here are the most common causative verbs in English:

  • Have
  • Let
  • Get
  • Make
  • Help

Let’s understand how these verbs function as causative verbs and why we call them causative verbs.

causative verbs explanation and examples
causative verbs explanation and examples

LET

The verb let means “to allow or permit someone to do something.” The causative verbs, like any other main verbs, can be used in any tense.

Structure: Subject + let (all tenses) + person (object) + bare infinitive (V1)

My father lets us watch TV after dinner.

My father allows us to watch TV after dinner. While eating dinner, he does not allow us to watch TV.

Examples:

  • He never lets me touch his phone.
  • They didn’t let us talk.
  • I will never let her go there.
  • Why don’t you let him play with us?
  • You must let him study with Riya.
  • I couldn’t let him talk rudely to your mother.

Sometimes the subject of the causative verb ‘let’ is implied: YOU.

  • Let me handle this. (= You let me handle this.)
  • Please let us go.
  • Let them do what they want to do.

MAKE

The verb ‘make’ as a causative verb means “to force or pressure someone to do something.”

Structure: Subject + make (all tenses) + person (object) + bare infinitive (V1)

We did not have money to pay them, so they made us clean the dishes.

They forced us to clean the dishes as we didn’t pay them for the food we had eaten.

Examples:

  • She made me take up this course. I was never up for this.
  • My brother always makes me clean his room.
  • You can’t make me do what I don’t like.
  • I should make her take this job.
  • The police made them surrender and reveal their plans.
  • I will make you regret this.

HAVE

The verb ‘have’ as a causative verb means “to ask, instruct, or request someone to do something.” To have someone do something is somewhat making the person do it but by asking or paying them. But they don’t have much of a choice or generally accept what you ask them to do because they are either paid for the action or they respect you enough to say ‘no’ to you.

My father had me pick up the guests from the station.

My father caused (asked) me to do an action: pick up the guests. He asked me to do it, but I didn’t have much of a choice to say ‘no’ to him because I both feared and respected him enough. So, he made me do the action in a way, but not directly.

Structure 1: Subject + have (all tenses) + person + to + base verb (V1)

Examples:

  • I will have him talk to you.
  • I had Jon pay the bill last night.
  • I will have Sneha show you the campus.
  • We had him paint all the walls.
  • I will have Rohin cut my hair.

In the above examples, the actions (verb) that the object (person) performs are in the active voice. They can be in the passive voice too. In the passive form, what the object (person) acts upon is important and is what we focus on and leave the object (person) unmentioned.

Structure 2: Subject + have (all tenses) + object + past participle

  • I will have the man repair my bike tomorrow. (active)
  • I will have my bike repaired tomorrow. (passive)

Notice that in the passive form, the subject hasn’t mentioned the person who does the action for them; the focus is on the object (the thing) that he acts upon: my hair. It is obvious that someone will do the action, but it’s not important who does the action; the important thing is what he acts upon.

Active voicePassive voice
I will have Rohin cut my hair in the evening.I will have my hair cut in the evening (by Rohan).
We had Jimi complete our project.We had our project completed.
We will have Rohan check your assignment.We will have your assignment checked.

Notice that in the passive voice, the person whom we get something done by is not mentioned or in brackets as the person is not important.

Note: we can use modal verbs with causatives too. The modal verb comes before the causative verb.

  • You should have him give the presentation.
  • I must have her present our idea in front of the judges.
  • We could have Simi do the editing. She has done it before.

GET

The verb ‘get’ as a causative verb means “to convince someone to do something or to coax, encourage, or trick someone into doing something.” You sometimes pay for the action too.

Structure 1: Subject + get (all tenses) + person (object) + infinitive (to + V1)

I got Jyoti to write my essay. She is great at it.

Initially, Jyoti was not going to write my essay. But I convinced her to do that for me.

Examples:

  • They got me to write content for their website.
  • I got him to sign the papers. Now, the property is yours.
  • Max got all of us to join the party.
  • You should get your younger brother to handle your social media accounts.
  • I can’t get him to do anything. He does not listen to me.
  • Did you get him to read the story?
  • How do you get her to cook food for you? She never cooks for us.

Structure 2: Subject + get (all tenses) + the object (thing) + past participle

Active voicePassive voice
I got him to sign the papers yesterday.I got the papers signed yesterday.
She is getting me to cut her hair.She is getting her hair cut.
Jon got him to repair your laptop.Jon got your laptop repaired.
How did you get them to hire him?How did you get him hired?

HELP

The verb ‘help’ does not exactly cause someone to do something, but it does aid the person in doing the action. So, we can call it a semi-causative verb.

Meaning = to aid someone in doing something

Structure: Subject + help (all tenses) + someone (object) + infinitive or bare infinitive

Examples:

  • I helped him to write the report.
    or
  • I helped him write the report.
  • She never helps me prepare breakfast.
  • Jonny will help you solve this matter.
  • Will you help me do this?
  • My sister Riya helps me edit the videos.
  • You should help her to reach there.
  • You must help me get this job.

Other causative verbs

Assist = to help or aid someone in doing something
Force = to make someone do something forcefully
Pressurize = to make someone do something forcefully or by putting pressure on them
Require = make someone do something (a part of the process generally)
Convince = to get someone to do something by convincing them
Coax/persuade = to get someone to do something by being kind, gentle, and persistent or at least appear to be doing it gently and kindly

Examples:

  • He forced me drink that slimy thing.
  • You can’t pressurize us to leave the job.
  • This job requires us to be good at coding.
  • She convinced me to wear that jacket.
  • His friends coaxed/persuaded us to come with them.
Causative verbs in English

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