CAUSATIVE VERB

Lesson I

UNDERSTANDING CAUSATIVE VERBS

Causative verbs express the idea of causation. In a causative constructionOpens in new window a person or thing does not directly perform an action.

The subject (a person or thing) causes it to happen by applying some element of coercion, persuasion, assistance, etc. on an agent (another person or thing) to do it.

In other words, the subject (a person or thing. See SubjectOpens in new window) does not by oneself carry out an action, but instead caused an agent (another person or thing) to have the action (something) done.

This is the sense that causative verbs express—an action which is caused by the subject (person or thing) to take place.

Examples of Causative sentences

  • Hasty planning caused the system to fail.
  • Racism issues caused Shooting Stars to play their match behind closed doors.
  • Thoughtlessness caused the boys to injure the little frog.

There are multiple verbs classified as causative, some of which include:

But the five most important causative verbs are:

Comparisons of Causative verbs “Have,” “Get,” “Make,” “Let,” and “Help.”

Causative Verb Comparison
HaveOpens in new window The causative verb “Have”, is used in expressions of arrangement, duty or responsibility. It is less forceful and less authoritative compared to causative verb “Get”.
Get The causative verb “Get”, is used in expressions of encouragement or persuasion. It is considerably forcel than Have, and less forceful compared to causative verb “Make”.
Make The causative verb “Make”, is used to express compulsion, insistence, and requirement. It is the most forceful.
Let The causative verb “Let”, is used to express permission. It does not convey force.
Help The causative verb “Help”, is used to express assistance. It does not convey force.

Compare the following sentences:

Sentence Meaning
We had them meet each other. We arranged for them to meet each other.
We got them to meet each other. We convinced them to meet each other.
We made them meet each other. We forced them to meet each other.
We let them meet each other. We permitted them to meet each other.
We helped them to meet each other. We assisted them to meet each other.
Important! 

Note that in a formal context, causative ‘Have’ is preferred to causative ‘Get’ because it is more formal. However, in the imperative form, causative ‘Get’ is mostly used compared to causative ‘Have’.

Note also that:

  • “Have somebody do something” is preferred in American English.
  • “Get somebody to do something” is preferred in British English.
    See Lesson Two.
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