Understanding Causative Verbs in English

Understanding Causative Verbs in English: make, have, let, help, get

Hello 2016! WELCOME regular followers of English Outside the Box and WELCOME to English Outside the Box if you are just joining. 2016 is going to be a great year, full of so much English. I will be making some changes, don’t worry it will be for the better, as well as sharing some exciting new projects. All of this means more opportunities to teach you English. YES!

Today is an exciting day, for a few reasons.

  • It’s the very first post of 2016.
  • It’s the very first post of my new blog schedule
  • This post will help you understand a very common error for non-English speakers
  • After today, you’ll speak better, more confidently, and best of all Use Better Grammar. (<–p.s…. that’s the name of my grammar course)

Understanding causative verbs in English, or more specifically the verbs make, have, let, help, and get, will help you explain and talk about situations where the verbs are not just done by the subject of the sentence. Remember, in English, the active structure (which is most commonly used) is when we have a SUBJECT doing an ACTION (verb). Some examples of this would be:

  1. I changed the tire on my car.
  2. I ate my vegetables when I was a child.
  3. My students tell me their goals in our first lesson.
  4. I drove my dad’s car when I was 16.
  5. My husband hung up our Christmas lights.

Grammatically, these sentences are great. However, something very important to note here is that I have never changed a tire on my car. EVER. Without the assistance of my friends, or Paulo in the upcoming example, I would not have been able to change the tire on my car alone. So how do I express that I didn’t do this action alone, but I got help?

In the second example, sure I ate my vegetables as a child but certainly not willingly. I promise you, even as a vegetarian now, I did not want to eat my vegetables as a child. So how do I express that I didn’t do this action alone, but I was forced?

Let’s look at example number 3. Yes, this is true that my students always tell me their goals in our first online lesson together. But they usually don’t just say, “Hi. I am ______. My goal is____.” There is definitely some prompting for me to get this information, I need to ask for it. So how do I express that my students didn’t just tell me their goals, but was first asked by me?

I am sure you see a pattern here, so I will cut right to the chase (*get to the important point directly*) for examples 4 and 5. How do I express that I wasn’t able to drive my dad’s car without first asking permission, and that Paulo didn’t hang up our lights without a little persuasion or convincing?

The answers to all of these questions in bold are: CAUSATIVE VERBS.

What are Causative Verbs?

The causative verbs in English are help, make, have, let, and get. These verbs are used to indicate that someone (THE SUBJECT) causes another person (THE OBJECT) to do an action (MAIN VERB). *Note that sometimes the object of causative verbs can be animals.

So the structure of a sentence with a causative verb will look like this:


Each causative verb has a different meaning, or emphasis. To show these different meanings, and to answer the questions above, I have rewritten my examples:

  1. Paulo helped me change the tire on the car.
  2. My mom made me eat vegetables when I was a child.
  3. I have my students tell me their goals in our first lesson.
  4. My dad let me drive his car when I was 16.
  5. I got my husband to hang up our Christmas lights.

I have created a new 5 minute English video for you on my YouTube channel about this very topic. These 5 Minute English videos are a great way to learn with me, whenever and wherever you are! This video (and every video for that matter) has a task for you to complete to get extra practice on this topic. It will always include trying your own example sentences, and applying the information from the lesson. Please, don’t be shy because remember, the more you practice, the better!

Hey guess what! Did you know that I am offering a BONUS video for my subscribers?

The BONUS video has extra examples, and explanations of common confusions and mistakes. PLUS, you’ll get extra special bonuses, too! If you’re not an e-mail subscriber, don’t worry…it’s not too late.

SIGN UP HERE to get the BONUS video, plus free English resources (an ebook & idioms worksheet)!


For additional practice of causative verbs, try answering the following sentences in the comments below:

  1. Have you helped a friend do anything this week?
  2. What did your parents make you do when you were younger that you didn’t like?
  3. Has a teacher ever had you do anything crazy in front of the class?
  4. Did you parents let you drive their car when you were younger?
  5. What have you gotten your friends to do that they originally didn’t want to?

If you have any questions about this blog post, please let me know and I’ll try to answer them. As always…

Happy Studying! ♥

P.S.. Do you know someone studying English? Please share this post with them. It will help them and help me, and we’ll both be thankful!


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