The Passive Causative

The students had the grammar explained to them by their teacher…

Do your students understand the passive voice? Sure. Have they mastered causative verbs? Yep. But do they realize that causative verbs can be passive too? What?

Don’t let the passive causative cause your students any angst. Try presenting it using the method below, and wait for that Aha moment!

What is the passive causative?

Causative verbs (have, let, make) are used when one person is causing another to do something. The passive is used when the focus is on the thing instead of the person. When you combine them together, you are essentially saying someone caused something to be done (by someone).

2016-10-19_passive-causative-resource

Why “get”?

Since the causative verbs are have, let, and make, students might be wondering why the passive causative is formed with have or get. Get is possible for two reasons:

  1. Get is the casual passive form. Instead of the problem was solved, you can say the problem got solved.
  2. Get also has a causative meaning. You can say I got someone to do something, with the meaning of cause or force. However, because it’s not a true causative verb, the base verb is not used, and an infinitive verb is used instead (which is the normal case for a second verb in a sentence after an object). See our Causative Verbs post for more information.

One more example…

I got my hair cut is probably one of the most commonly used passive causative sentences around. But because cut is an irregular verb that has the same form for the past participle as it does for the base verb, it’s a good idea to give students another example with a verb that changes forms. Try showing them these sentences:

Causative: The manager had the assistant write the report.
Passive: The report was/got written (by the assistant).
Passive Causative: The manager had/got the report written (by the assistant).

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18 comments

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  1. reyhaneh.sharmz@gmail.com'

    reyhaneh says:

    Nov 14, 2017 at 8:45 am

    thank you so much . it was realy usefull

    Reply

  2. gharq.darya@gmail.com'

    Zahra Ali says:

    Nov 08, 2017 at 12:39 am

    Thanks billions you saved me alot today we have exam about this causative verb

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Nov 08, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      Fantastic! Thanks for commenting, Zahra.

      Reply

  3. cynthia_szito@web.de'

    Cynthia says:

    Oct 24, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Hi Tanya,
    I was wondering about the following example: “He got a piece of paper stuck to his arm.”
    In this case, I suppose it means that the piece of paper ended up on his arm and he doesn’t know how it got there…am I right? Would you say that this is an agentive or a non-agentive expression? I am asking because I have to classify the sentence. Thank you in advance :)

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Nov 09, 2017 at 8:12 pm

      Hi Cynthia,

      Good question! I would say this is non-agentive. You can’t say “He got a piece of paper stuck to his arm by someone” or change it back to “Someone stuck a piece of paper to his arm.” I believe it is still the passive causative because it follows the pattern, and the subject didn’t stick the paper to his arm himself. But unlike most passive causative sentences, we don’t know WHO did the second action (we don’t know who stuck the piece of paper to his arm), so I think it’s safe to say it’s non-agentive in this case. Thanks for bringing up this interesting example!

      Reply

  4. paymansaleh96@gmail.com'

    Payman says:

    Oct 18, 2017 at 12:07 am

    Thanks a lot
    You solved our problems I am from Afghanistan

    Reply

  5. dimitryarancibia29@gmail.com'

    Rafael says:

    Sep 08, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    You really saved me ! I had to do alot of hw & I found it here, thanks a million.

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Sep 11, 2017 at 7:45 pm

      I’m glad this post helped you, Rafael!

      Reply

  6. siavash1386@gmail.com'

    siavash says:

    Sep 08, 2017 at 11:46 am

    hello
    thanks a million
    im iranian
    thanks for teaching me

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Sep 11, 2017 at 7:45 pm

      You’re welcome! Thanks for your comment.

      Reply

  7. aksilkhadidja@gmail.com'

    AKSIL imane says:

    May 04, 2017 at 6:20 am

    How about ing geround

    Reply

  8. dulliethblandford@yahoo.com'

    David Ullieth Blandford says:

    Feb 26, 2014 at 2:54 am

    I´m glad I have found a site with a lot of ideas for my students. Thanks a lot.

    Reply

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Feb 26, 2014 at 5:58 pm

      We’re happy to hear that, David! Thanks. :)

      Reply

      • masoudrostami1985@gmail.com'

        Masoud says:

        Feb 03, 2017 at 12:18 pm

        Hi,how about the ommissiin of by phrase?

        Reply

        • Tanya Trusler says:

          Feb 06, 2017 at 3:39 pm

          Hi Masoud,

          The “by” phrase is often omitted in a passive or passive causative sentence, but it doesn’t have to be. We usually include it when it’s not obvious. Here are some examples:

          – My hair was cut. (passive, “by a hairdresser” is omitted because it’s obvious)
          – My hair was cut by my mother. (passive, “by my mother” is included because it’s not obvious)
          – I got my hair cut. (passive causative, “by a hairdresser” is omitted because it’s obvious)
          – I got my hair cut by my mother. (passive causative, “by my mother” is included because it’s not obvious)

          Hope that helps!

          Reply

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