Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Grammar: Causatives

Please read the first two paragraphs from Grammar: The Subjunctive by way of introduction to this series of blog posts regarding grammar.

Using a causative construction demonstrates a better knowledge of English, which is why it is taught to students preparing for a B2, C1 or C2 level English examination (IELTS, ECPE, ECCE, ESB, LRN, MSU-CELP, MSU-CELC, TOEFL, TOEIC, ALCE, to name a few).

The reason why we use the causative voice is because we want to say that we didn't do something on our own, but 


a) told or paid someone to do it for us

or

b) want to focus on the thing that was done instead of stressing who did it

The main thing to memorize is summarized in these four simple phrases: 


Have
Get
Have somebody do something
Get somebody to do something
Have something done
Get something done
 

 Let's specify this table a little more.


 When the focus falls on who we told or paid

Have
Get
Have somebody do something
Get somebody to do something
 


As you can see, the main difference between these two constructions is that 

a) with the causative verb "have" the verb that follows in the sentence is a bare infinitive (the basic form of a verb without "to" in front it) 

b) with the causative verb "get", the verb that follows is a full infinitive (the basic form of a verb with "to" in front it)
 
If you remember these phrases, all you have to do is change the words "somebody" and "something" with the specific person and job you want to mention, the word "do" with the verb required in the sentence, and add any other words needed.

Let's look at a few examples:

color scheme key:
yellow = causative verb
green = person who we told or paid to do something
blue= verb 
violet = the thing or person the verb affected (not always present in a sentence) 


Example 1

I had the plumber fix the tap. / I got the plumber to fix the tap.

Both sentences mean that the speaker paid a plumber to fix his or her tap.
 

Example 2

Jenny is having John come over tomorrow night because she wants to discuss her dissertation with him. / Jenny is getting John to come over tomorrow night because she wants to discuss her dissertation with him.

As you can see, it is possible to have a sentence without a specific "something" (in violet color) done. In John's case, he was just told to come over to Jenny's house, an activity that does not affect another thing or person.



Examples 3 + 4

Due to the fact that Kim's grades were low, she had an essay writing service write up her report for her. / Due to the fact that Kim's grades were low, she got an essay writing service to write up her report for her.


The gardener has had a special weed-removing machine pull out the dandelions in our yard. / The gardener has got a special weed-removing machine to pull out the dandelions in our yard.


These two examples show that the "somebody" in the sentence doesn't have to literally be a person, but can be an office, organization, tool, etc. 


Example 5

The doctor had the nurse inject the patient in room 203 with a powerful sedative. / The doctor got the nurse to inject the patient in room 203 with a powerful sedative.

I added this example to point out that the thing affected by the verb (in violet) is not only a thing but can be a person as well.
 



Now let's look at the bottom half of the table.


When the focus falls on the thing that was done (not on the person doing it)


Have
Get
Have something done
Get something done
 
 

In this case, we don't care about who we told or paid to do something for us, but we want to highlight the fact that something was done.

Both these phrases in this table with "have" and "get" are the same, but in contrast to the previous two seen above, the verb that follows the causative verbs "have" and "get" is a past participle (a verb with an "-ed" ending or in the case of irregular verbs, the past participle is the one found in the far right column of lists after the past form of the verb, for example the past participle of the irregular verb "think" "thought", "beat" ⇒ "beaten", "see" ⇒ "seen").

Using the same color scheme and the same examples as the ones above, let's look at what happens when we leave out the person doing the action:

Example 1

I had the tap fixed. / I got the tap fixed.  



Example 2

This example cannot be changed since there is no object or "something" (in violet) in the sentence.



Examples 3 + 4

Due to the fact that Kim's grades were low, she had her report written up for her. / Due to the fact that Kim's grades were low, she got her report written up for her.


The gardener has had the dandelions pulled out in our yard. / The gardener has got the dandelions pulled out in our yard.


Example 5

The doctor had the patient in room 203 injected with a powerful sedative. / The doctor got the patient in room 203 injected with a powerful sedative.


Related Constructions

Continuous Form
 
If the action you want done is long, then the verb following the "something" of the sentence can be placed with an "-ing" ending.

Examples:

1) I had the police looking for my dog all afternoon.

2) The teacher had the students searching for mistakes in the essay during the entire lesson. 

3) They had us talking in no time at all.


Unpleasant events

The causative can also be used to say that something bad happened to somebody

Examples:

1) He had his wallet stolen the other day. 

2) We had our house burgled. 

Obviously the person didn't get a pickpocket to steal his wallet, and neither did we hire burglars to break into our house. The idea behind both sentences is that the event that happened was an unpleasant one.

Only the construction "have something done" can be used to express this.


Final note:

Just know that "get" is informal and therefore not used in formal speech or writing. It's fine to use it when you are speaking or writing informally, though.




Find more grammar help here. 

http://argutelegacy.blogspot.com/search/label/Grammar
 

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