Have Something Done


In a previous post we looked at some standard passive structures. We saw that usually in a passive structure, the person who does the action is not mentioned. In this post we will look at two causative structures. These structures are used when someone employs another person to do an action.

Today, I had my hair cut.

Learners often have trouble with these structures because there are a number of structures which look similar. I will begin with the two main forms, some examples, and then look at some forms that are similar in structure but very different in meaning.



Someone + have + something + past participle (by someone)

Sam had his hair cut (by a hairdresser).

Someone + have + someone + verb + something

Sam had a hairdresser cut his hair.

Function and Points to Note

When we use these structures we are saying that Sam wanted a hair cut. He did not cut his hair but he employed/ asked another person to do the action.

It is also possible to replace have with get: Sam got his hair cut.

The verb have is changed to give the tense. e.g. Has for present simple, had for past simple etc

In the first structure above, it is most common to not use by someone.

We must be careful to use the correct verb form. Note that in the first structure the past participle is used and in the second the bare infinitive form of the verb is used. It is difficult to see this in my example because I have used an irregular verb. Please see the examples that follow.


The director has his appointments arranged by his secretary.

The director has his secretary arrange his appointments.

The lady has had her car cleaned.

The lady has had a valet clean her car.

The businessman will have his suit cleaned at the weekend.

The businessman will have a dry-cleaner clean his suit at the weekend.

Similar Structures

You should be careful with structures that look similar but have very different meanings.

Sam had cut his hair.

This sentece is in Past Perfect. In this sentence, Sam cut his hair himself.

Sam had to cut his hair.

In this sentence, it was necessary for Sam to cut his hair. He cut it himself.

You Should

Find the translation or equivenant structure in your own language.

Try some sections from a grammar practice book.

Write examples that are true for you in different tenses.