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How to Use the Causative Form Correctly In English Grammar

Learn the common but confusing causative form in English grammar in order to describe a situation when the person in the subject position causes another person to perform a task.

Causative Active Form

When the causative form is used actively, it includes both who caused the situation to happen (ex. "I") and who performed the action that was caused (ex. "him"). We use the verbs "have" or "get" to express this: "I had him do it" or "I got him to do it"

For example, if I say "the teacher had his students read their essays to the class" or "the teacher got his students to read their essays to the class" it means that the subject "the teacher" directly caused his students to perform the action of "read their essays to the class".

It's important to note a small but meaningful detail. When you use the verb "have", you use a present base form verb (ex. "read") and when you use "get" you use an infinitive verb (ex. "to read"):

  • The teacher had his students read their essays to the class

  • The teacher got his students to read their essays to the class.


a student reading her essay to the class

You can find more examples of the causative active form below. Note that the subject is usually a person who has power or influence in the situation:

  • The airport security had all of the customers walk through the metal detector machine.

  • The captain had everyone buckle their seatbelts because of turbulence.

  • The police officer had the man sit in the back of the police car

  • The singer got everyone in the audience to stand up for the last song.

  • The doctor got the patient to breathe in and out deeply during the medical checkup.

  • The detective got the suspect to admit that he committed the crime.

Practice Part 1

Change the sentences below so that they use the causative active form above. The first one is done for you as an example

  1. The guests waited in the lounge because the receptionist told them to (the receptionist had the guests wait in the lounge / the receptionist got the guests to wait in the lounge)

  2. The lawyer presented her evidence because the judge told her to

  3. Every employee shared their opinion because the manager wanted them to

  4. The witness described what she saw because the reported wanted her to

  5. The customers formed a lineup because the store manager told them to

Causative Passive Form

The causative form can be used in passive when the subject (ex. "I") causes another person to do something for your benefit. It uses the form below with an example included:

  • Person causing the situation + have/get + noun receiving the action + past participle of the action

  • I + had + my car + repaired

In the example above, the subject "I" is the person who caused this situation to happen, the verb "had" is used because it happened in the past, the noun receiving the action is "my car" and the action that it is receiving is "repaired", which is the past participle of the verb "repair". Note that the verb "got" could also be used instead of "had". The person who performed the action, probably a car mechanic, is not included because it's not an important detail or because it's obvious who did it. If you want to include the person who performed the action, use the preposition "by":

  • I had my car repaired by a car mechanic

It's common to use the causative passive form for services that you pay people to do. In the examples below you can see that they are services that you pay for as a customer:

  • I had my house painted

  • I had my taxes done

  • I had my tooth removed

  • I had my windows washed

  • I had the party catered

  • I got my license renewed

  • I got my hair cut

  • I got my nails done

  • I got my visa approved

In the examples above, the subject "I" is not performing the action but causing another person (ex. a painter) to do the past participle action.

Practice Part 2

Change the sentences below so that they use the causative passive form. You don't need to include who performed the action. The first one is done for you as an example

  1. A makeup artist did my makeup (I had/got my makeup done)

  2. A cleaning company cleaned my carpets

  3. A nurse took my blood at the hospital

  4. An employee at the Apple store fixed my phone.

  5. A web designer professionally designed my website

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Answers

Answers to Practice Part 1

  1. The receptionist had the guests wait in the lounge / The receptionist got the guests to wait in the lounge.

  2. The judge had the lawyer present her evidence / The judge got the lawyer to present her evidence

  3. The manager had every employee share their opinion / The manager got every employee to share their opinion

  4. The reporter had the witness describe what she saw / The reporter got the witness to describe what she saw

  5. The store manager had the customers form a lineup / The store manager got the customers to form a lineup.

Answers to Practice Part 2

  1. I had/got my makeup done

  2. I had/got my carpets cleaned

  3. I had/got my blood taken at the hospital

  4. I had/got my phone fixed

  5. I had/got my website professionally designed



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