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 'to do' and 'to have done'

Two questions about the causitive

Juan Manuel Flores Garcia Rojas from Mexico asks:

Can you explain to me about causative sentences because I have difficulty in understanding them.

Shariq Khan from Pakistan asks:

I want to ask if I can use the causative in the past perfect tense. Is this a correct sentence: ‘Had you had your car repaired??/font>


Roger replies:
We use the 'have something done' construction when we want to indicate that we have arranged for other people to do something for us. Compare the following sentences:
  • 'He repaired the fence.' (He did the work himself.)

  • 'He had the fence repaired.' (He arranged for somebody else to do it.)

  • 'Are you going to redecorate the house yourself?' 'No, I'm going to have it redecorated.'

Take care with the formation of the causative. The past participle always comes after the object, thus:

have + object + past participle


Look at these examples:
  • 'The family had their portraits painted by a professional artist.'

  • 'We've just had double-glazing fitted and the house is so much warmer now.'

  • 'It's not surprising that you break down all the time, you never have your car serviced.'

  • 'When are you going to have your bad tooth taken out?'

  • 'Joanna loves having her photograph taken, but David hates it.'

As you can see from the above illustrations, Sharik, the causative can be used with a wide variety of different tenses and constructions, e.g. past simple, present perfect, present simple, future reference, 'like/dislike/love/hate' + -ing and so on.

However, I don't think it would be used so often with the past perfect, although the example given below sounds quite natural:

  • 'By the time my mother arrived I had had my ears pierced and there was nothing she could do about it.'
In informal, spoken English, we also sometimes use the alternative 'get something done' instead of 'have something done':
  • 'When are you going to get your hair cut?'

  • 'If you don't get the roof repaired before winter, you’ll be in serious trouble.
Note also that the causative construction is sometimes used as an alternative to the passive voice. Compare the following:
  • 'He had his car serviced regularly so it never broke down.'

  • 'His car was serviced regularly so it never broke down.'