Causatives

'Causatives' indicate that someone did not do the action on their own, but they somehow intervened in the cause of the events.

"Causatives" in the English Grammar

What Are Causatives?

Causatives are verbs that indicate a person or thing is causing an action to happen, rather than performing the action themselves. They are used to express the idea of making someone else or something else do something or causing an event to happen.

Why Do We Use Causatives?

Causatives are used to show how someone or something initiates or influences an action, clarifying the connection between the initiator and the activity. They help express who is responsible for making things happen in different contexts. Here are some examples which can help you to understand the concept:

She made him apologize.

I got my hair cut by my sister.

Peter let Sara do the project.

Types of Causative Structures

In English, causative verbs are typically formed using one of the following structures:

Causatives With Past Participle

In this type, the causative verb, typically 'get' or 'have,' is followed by an object and a past participle. This structure is used causatively to indicate that the subject arranged for an object to be in a specific state or condition. The structure is as follows: Subject + Causative Verb + Object + Past Participle. Here are some examples:

She got her car fixed.

As you can see, in this structure the subject is the one causing or making someone else do the action.

I got my nails done.

I had my hair cut.

He will have his car repaired.

Tip!

In this type of sentence, someone takes another person to do a job or service for them that often costs money. The sentence talks about the job but may or may not mention who does it. For example:

I got my car repaired. or I got my car repaired by the mechanic.

As you can see, the one who does the job can or cannot be mentioned.

Causatives with Past Participle Vs. Passive Voice

The causative structure emphasizes that the subject caused something to happen, while the passive voice emphasizes that something happened to the subject without necessarily specifying the doer. However, both constructions involve the use of past participles and can describe actions performed on the object. For example:

I had my hair cut Vs. My hair was cut

As you can see, in a sense, using a causative verb is similar to using a passive. The important thing is that the hair is now cut and we don't focus on who did it in passive voice.

Causatives with Non-Finite Clause

These causative verbs indicate that the subject is causing the object to perform the action of the main verb. In simpler terms, the subject does not do the action of the main verb; instead, it makes the object do the action. The subject's role can vary but usually involves starting, assisting, or making sure the action happens, without actually doing it themselves. The structure of making this type of causative is as follows: Subject + Causative Verb + Object + non-finite clause

In this category, a non-finite clause is added to the main clause. A non-finite clause can be formed using these structures:

  • Bare infinitive clause: a causative verb is followed by an object and then a bare infinitive. For example:

She let me drive (bare infinitive) her car.

My mom made me clean (bare infinitive) my room.

  • To-infinitive clause: a causative verb is followed by an object and a to-infinitive. For example:

He got her to read (to-infinitive) the book

He forced me to study (to-infinitive) math at school.

  • Present participle: a causative verb is followed by an object and a present participle. For example:

She had him working (present participle) on the project all night

Down below, you can see a table of some causative verbs following their usual types of non-finite clauses:

Causative Verb Non-Finite Clause Type
Make bare infinitive clause
Force to-infinitive clause
Let bare infinitive clause
Get to-infinitive clause or present participle
Have bare infinitive clause or present participle
Help bare infinitive clause or to-infinitive clause
Keep present participle

Here are some examples:

I made him study for the exam.

He forced me to go to the party with him.

She lets her children play video games on the weekends.

I got him to sign the contract.

He had his friend fix the computer.

He helped him escape from the jail. / He helped him to escape from the jail.

They kept the professor talking on the same project over and over.

Classifying Causative Verbs by Meaning

Below, you will discover distinct categories of causative verb meanings, each containing a set of causative verbs conveying similar ideas. Explore the list for reference:

  • Permission
  • Obligation or compulsion
  • Facilitation
  • Influence
  • Support or encouragement
  • Cause and arrangement

Permission

There are some causative verbs in this group such as let, allow, permit, and authorize. They all generally mean to give permission or make it possible for someone to do something. When using 'allow', 'permit', and 'authorize' a to-infinitive clause is required, however when using 'let' a bare-infinitive clause is needed. For instance:

She let him borrow her car.

As you can see, 'Let' is often considered less formal than other verbs and is commonly used in everyday spoken language.

The teacher allowed the students to work in groups.

I permitted my son to stay up late to finish his homework.

The manager authorized her assistant to sign important documents in her absence.

Obligation or Compulsion

All causative verbs in this group share similarities in that they all involve forcing or compelling someone to do something. Some causative verbs in this group are: make, force, require, and compel. When employing 'force,' 'require,' and 'compel,' a to-infinitive clause is necessary, whereas 'make' requires a bare-infinitive clause. For example:

He made me mow the lawn.

As you can see, 'make' is often used to indicate a strong degree of compulsion.

They forced him to confess.

Here, 'force' implies a high level of compulsion, often involving physical or psychological pressure to make someone do something against their will.

The circumstances compelled him to apologize for his actions.

'make' is a causative verb

Facilitation

Causative verbs in this group convey the meaning of providing the means or opportunity for someone to do something. In this category, you'll find causative verbs such as: enable, facilitate, empower, and entitle. All these verbs require a to-infinitive clause. Here are some examples:

She enabled her team to work from home by providing the necessary remote access tools.

The manager facilitated the training sessions to improve employee skills.

The organization empowers its employees to make decisions independently.

The certificate entitles the holder to access exclusive member benefits.

Influence

Causative verbs in this category convey the meaning of persuading or influencing someone to do something or believe in something such as convince, persuade, inspire, and influence. Remember that all verbs in this category require a to-infinitive clause. Take a look at these examples:

She convinced her friend to join the hiking trip.

He persuaded his team to take on the challenging project.

Her success story influenced her peers to pursue similar careers.

The teacher's passion for science inspired her students to excel in the subject.

Support or Encouragement

Causative verbs in this category imply the meaning of aiding or encouraging others in some manner including verbs such as help, assist, prompt, and encourage. However, the specific ways they provide support may vary but they all share a common theme. All verbs that are mentioned are usually followed by a to-infinitive clause. Take a look at these examples:

She helped her friend organize a surprise party.

Here, 'help' can be followed by a bare infinitive or a to-infinitive clause. So you can also say "She helped her friend to organize…"

The coach encouraged the athletes to give their best effort.

The coach assisted the athlete to prepare for the competition.

The teacher prompted the students to ask questions during the lecture

Cause and Arrangement

This category of verbs conveys the idea of causing or arranging for someone else to perform an action or task on your behalf. Causative verbs that imply cause and arrangement include 'have,' 'get,' 'keep,' and 'pay.' Here are some examples:

I got my friend to help me move.

As you can see, 'get' is followed by a to-infinitive clause.

She got him laughing.

As you can see, 'get' can also be followed by the present participle.

I had him cut the bushes.

As you can see, 'have' can be followed by a bare infinitive clause.

She had her kids cleaning the entire house.

Here, 'have' can also be followed by the present participle.

They kept the machine working for a while

As you can see, 'keep' always comes with the present participle because it means to make something maintain in the same situation for a while so it is used in the continuous form.

I paid the maid to clean the house.

Here, 'pay' is used causatively to indicate that the subject (I) caused someone (the maid) to perform a specific action (to clean the house).

Tip!

Using the present participle with causative verbs such as get, have, and, keep indicates that the doer was actively engaged in the action for an extended period. Someone or something (subject) caused or arranged for someone or something (object) to participate in the action actively. For example:

Our conversation got me thinking.

Review

Causative verbs indicate one entity is causing another to perform an action, emphasizing the role of the instigator. They often involve verbs like 'make,' 'have,' or 'get' and are used to express actions where the subject arranges or compels others to act on their behalf. Causatives highlight the dynamics of influence and control in actions and events.

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