Causative Verbs In English

Causative verbs are verbs which show that another person does something for you. For example, we don’t (usually) repair our own washing machines, or cut our own hair. Instead, we pay someone else to do these services for us – and we can use a causative verb to say this in English.

You can also use causative verbs to say that things happen to you – and they aren’t always “services” that you want to pay for!

There are different causative verb forms in English. Here are three common ones in British English.

Get something done

Verb structure 1
Get + object + past participle

This is very common in spoken English. Here are some examples for different tenses:

“I need to get my washing machine repaired.”
“That’s the place where I got my nails done.” (Past tense)
“I’m going to get my hair cut next week.” (Future)
“He might get his offer accepted.” (With a modal auxiliary)

Verb structure 2
Get + person / object + infinitive

With this structure, you focus on the person / thing doing the action (rather than on the action.)

“Can you get him to call me when he comes back?”
“I can’t get this printer to work.”
“She got them to install her washing machine for her.”

Have something done

Verb structure 1
Have + something + past participle

This is more formal than “get something done”. Here are some examples:

“She’s having her car serviced next week.” (Present continuous for arrangement)
“He had his house broken into when he was on holiday.” (Past simple to talk about something bad that happened to a person)
“Can I have my appointment rescheduled?”

Verb structure 2
Have + someone + infinitive without “to”

This is a formal way to focus on the person doing the action.

“Can you have her call me early next week to arrange a meeting?”
“He had all the recruits line up on the parade ground,”

Need / Want doing

Verb structure 1
Need / Want + ing form (Gerund)

This is also very common in British English, and it’s quite informal – especially if you use the verb “want”. Here are some examples:

“Your hair needs cutting.”
“His car wants washing.”
“The grass needs mowing.”

Verb structure 2
Need / want + noun + past participle

“I want my hair cut.”
“You need your car cleaned professionally.”
“She wants her house painted.”

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