What are causative verbs in English?

What are causative verbs in English?So what are causative verbs in English and how are they used?

Causative verbs, as the name suggests, are used when we want to talk about somebody causing something to take place but not actually performing the action.

In sentences including causative verbs, the subject does not perform the action. Compare the causative to active and passive sentences:

Example Meaning Type of sentence
I had my car repaired I asked a mechanic to do the repairs Causative
I repaired my car. I did the repairs. Active
My car was repaired. Someone did the repairs (we don’t know who and the speaker is not saying that they requested the repairs). Passive

 

There are four causative verbs that are commonly used in English sentences.

Causative verbs 1/4 – have

Using the causative verb ‘have’ means that the subject of the sentence gives someone the responsibility to do something. There are two possible structures for the verb ‘have’.

Structure 1: Subject + form of have + person + base verb I will have my secretary send you the details.
Structure 2: Subject + form of have + object + past participle verb I had my car repaired

 

We tend to use structure 1 when we include the person we are instructing to do something. When the person doing the work is not referenced, we use structure 2.

NOTE: sometimes using the causative verb ‘have’ can mean that something is done to the subject. For example:

John had his car stolen.

In this example, John didn’t give someone the responsibility for stealing the car.


Causative verbs 2/4 – make

Using the causative verb ‘make’ means that the subject of the sentence forces someone to do something.

Structure: Subject + make + person + base verb The teacher made us do our homework.

Causative verbs 3/4 – let

Using the causative verb ‘let’ means that the subject of the sentence allows someone to do something.

Structure: Subject + let + person + base verb The boss let us go home early

Causative verbs 4/4 – get

Using the causative verb ‘get’ means that the subject of the sentence persuades or manipulates someone into doing something. NOTE: the structure of this sentence is different in that it requires the word ‘to’

Structure: Subject + get + person + to + base verb He got me to agree with him even though I think he’s wrong!

Ready to test your skills? Try the causative exercise!

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