have + infinitive/-ing


Aida from Spain asks::

I would like you to clear up for me usage of two structures involving the verb have when it is followed by a bare infinitive as in

  • I won't have you stay out late
  • I've never had my car break down on the motorway

and when it is followed by -ing form as in

  • I won't have you smoking in my classroom.
Roger Woodham replies:

have + object + infinitive / -ing form

This special usage of the verb have means 'to cause to happen' or 'to experience'. There is often little or no difference in meaning between the two forms, e.g.:

  • He had us wash the dishes after supper.
  • He had us washing the dishes after supper.

When we choose the infinitive, we are pointing to things that happen, or (have) happened or might happen. In your own example,

'I've never had my car break down on the motorway'

you are saying that it has never happened, so you chose the bare infinitive.

When we choose the -ing form, we are thinking of things that are happening, were happening or might be happening. Depending on how we are thinking about it causes us to choose one or the other. Compare the following. In the first three examples you can visualise things that are happening or were happening, so the continuous form works best:

  • Now that the epidemic is over, it's lovely to have rabbits running around in the fields once again.
  • I opened the bonnet of the car and saw that I had water dripping out of the radiator.
  • The way he told the story was so funny. He had us literally crying with laughter.
  • You really ought to have the chemist take a look at that wasp sting. It looks really nasty.
  • He had us prune back all the shrubs so that they didn't overhang his neighbour's garden.
  • I'm ready to see him now, Geraldine. Have him come in, please.

I won't have...

When we use the expression I won't have..., it means I won't allow... and here the -ing form works best, but be careful: after allow, you need to + infinitive:

  • I won't have you smoking in the bedroom. = I won't allow you to smoke in the bedroom.
  • I won't have you staying out late. = I won't allow you to stay out late.
  • She wouldn't have him telling her when she could go out and who she could go out with.

have + object + past participle

This structure is also used when we talk about causing things to be done or about things happening to you, but with the past participle, note that it always has a passive meaning and can sometimes be used instead of the passive:

  • I'm going to have my car repaired next week. (It's going to be repaired next week.)
  • Two of Henry VIII's wives had their heads cut off (Two of his wives were beheaded)
  • Have you ever had your credit cards stolen? (Have they ever been stolen?)
  • We had to have our nineteen-year-old spaniel put down. (He had to be put down.)
  • Kevin had his air pistol confiscated by the headmaster. (It was confiscated last week.)
  • I think you should have the curtains dry-cleaned. Don't try to wash them yourself.