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).

The Passive Causative

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).


How Do I Subscribe?

Not an ESL Library member? Get unlimited access to 800+ lessons and 2000+ flashcards. Subscribe today!


Leave a Comment ↓

  1. wasim says:

    May 27, 2019 at 11:17 pm

    Kindly let me know how can i make Interrogative causative

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      May 29, 2019 at 7:28 pm

      Hi Wasim,

      It’s fairly easy to form interrogatives using causatives or the passive causative. Basically, you just add an auxiliary verb (do, did, will, etc. depending on your tense). Here are some examples:

      Causative statement: The man had the mechanic fix his car.
      Causative question: Did the man have the mechanic fix his car?

      Passive causative statement: The man had his car fixed by the mechanic.
      Passive causative question: Did the man have his car fixed by the mechanic?

  2. Deniz duzgun says:

    Apr 05, 2019 at 11:19 am

    I washed my shirt
    My jacket have been washed by a dry cleaner guy
    I have my sweetshirt to my mother washed
    I got my mother to wash my pants
    Please correct them for me in passive or causative way. Do not forget give us passive causative in the last for compare other structures please. Thanks

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Apr 08, 2019 at 12:04 pm

      Hi Deniz, here are some examples of the passive, causative, and passive causative based on your sentences above:
      – I washed my shirt. (active)
      – My jacket has been cleaned at the dry cleaner’s. (passive)

      – My sweatshirt was washed by my mother. (passive)
      – I had my mother wash my sweatshirt. (causative)
      – I had my sweatshirt washed by my mother. (passive causative)

      – My pants were washed by my mother. (passive)
      – I had my mother wash my pants. (causative)
      – I got my pants washed by my mother. (passive causative)

  3. Ali says:

    Mar 17, 2019 at 4:09 am

    Hi how we can change this sentence to passive : I had had Ali to have a cap of tea

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Mar 20, 2019 at 2:26 pm

      Hi Ali, that sentence doesn’t work well as a passive causative. “I had a cup of tea had by Ali” is not correct. Also, as a causative sentence, it would be better to say “I made Ali have a cup of tea” or “I let Ali have a cup of tea.” The main verb “have” doesn’t really make sense in your sentence, and it definitely doesn’t need to be in the past perfect tense (had had). Hope that helps!

  4. Kukito says:

    Jan 19, 2019 at 3:41 pm

    I am wondering if a statement that is using the passive causative structure (such as “We had arrangements made”) is considered to be in the passive voice as a whole or if it’s still considered active, since the subject is in fact performing an action (having someone else do something). Also, is the causative verb or the past participle the main verb? Thanks so much for your time!

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Jan 23, 2019 at 5:33 pm

      Hi Kukito,

      Great question. With the passive causative, the whole sentence is not considered passive. The main verb is “had” in your example, and it is active (and causative). The second verb, “made (by someone)” is what gives this structure the passive element, but only that second verb is passive. Now, if you said “We had gotten arrangements made,” meaning that we caused person A to get person B to make the arrangements, then the whole sentence would be passive. I guess we could call that a passive passive causative sentence! Luckily it’s not common, otherwise our poor students would be mighty confused.

  5. Mahmood Akbarzada says:

    Sep 25, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    Hello,Tanya I’m Mahmood from Afghanistan.I have some problems with tenses.Could you help me?

  6. Elaheh says:

    Sep 09, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    Hi there.

    What about these two sentences? Can they be changed into passive?
    she made her mother buy a car.
    Her mother let her buy a car.

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Sep 10, 2018 at 2:47 pm

      Hi Elaheh, I’d say that these sentences wouldn’t sound very natural as passive causative sentences. Sentence 1 would be “She had a car bought (by her mother)”—the meaning isn’t very clear (who is the car for?) and it doesn’t sound very natural. For sentence 2, “Her mother got a car bought”—the meaning isn’t clear at all, the meaning of “let” is lost, and it sounds incorrect.

      • Diana says:

        Nov 08, 2018 at 1:14 am

        Hello, could I ask you the passive causitive verb in the main clause? For example, the sentence “He made me revise the article.” is transformed into the passive form: “I was made to revise the article by him.” or “I was made him to revise the article.” Which the passive form is correct?

        • Tanya Trusler says:

          Nov 20, 2018 at 6:08 pm

          Hi Diana,

          The passive causative isn’t the same thing as simply making a causative verb passive. So your sentence, “I was made to revise the article (by him),” uses the passive form of the causative verb “make,” but it’s not the passive causative. The passive causative would be “He had the article revised (by me)” or “He got the article revised (by me).”

          The passive causative almost always follows this pattern: S + have/got + object (thing) + p.p. [+ object (person)].

          Your version and the true passive causative version are both correct. It just depends where you want the emphasis (on you or on him) because the subject of an English sentence is more important than an object.

          FYI, “I was made him to revise the article” is not correct.

          Hope that helps!

  7. Sadiq says:

    Aug 15, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    Hi. Tonya.
    How can I change this sentence to passive ” she killed herself”?

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Aug 16, 2018 at 3:12 pm

      Hi Sadiq,

      It doesn’t really sound natural to change a sentence that uses a reflexive pronoun to a passive sentence. The main reasons to use the passive voice are that we don’t know who did the action or the doer is not important. You could get fancy and say something like “She was killed by her own hand” but there’s really no need.

    • Talib-U-Din says:

      Feb 23, 2019 at 2:30 am

      She was killed by herself.

  8. sadiq says:

    Aug 04, 2018 at 5:12 am

    Hi Tanya.
    I am wondering to know the passive form of this sentence” she does make her friend wash the dishes”. I want to know if we use emphatic ” do” with causative verbs, is ti possible to change to passive or know?

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Aug 06, 2018 at 1:26 pm

      Hi Sadiq,

      Good question. Yes, you can use “do” for emphasis with both causative and passive causative sentences. You could say “She does get her dishes washed by her friend.” Some other examples that sound a bit more natural are “She does get her hair cut every three weeks” or “She does have her house cleaned once a week.”

  9. omid says:

    Jul 10, 2018 at 3:52 am

    (I need a pen ) can this sentence be changed into the passive

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Jul 10, 2018 at 7:36 pm

      Hi Omid, the passive form is “A pen was needed.” It’s possible to use this, but it sounds much more natural in the active voice.

  10. Grand says:

    Jun 21, 2018 at 8:08 am

    “I had my car stolen.”

    Causative? Passive?

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Jun 21, 2018 at 2:48 pm

      Hi Grand,

      “I had my car stolen” is causative. It means you arranged for someone to steal your car, which is strange unless you wanted to fraudulently collect the insurance or something.

      It sounds much more natural to use the passive causative and say “My car was stolen” or “My car got stolen.” This means that someone stole your car (and you don’t know who stole it).

  11. HEM says:

    Mar 28, 2018 at 11:58 pm

    Dear teacher, please help me making passive of the following sentencs.
    1. Jimy got him her house to paint green.

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Apr 09, 2018 at 7:11 pm

      Hi there, your sentence as it stands is not correct. A correct passive causative sentence would be: Jimy got her house painted green (by him). (In this case, Jimy is a girl.) Hope that helps!

  12. Munawar says:

    Mar 03, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Dear teacher,
    having you is really blessing for us, I was reading your answer then I got one thing that I could not understand that why ” She works hard to earn money or he works to bring water. is can not be converted into passive voice.
    Is it due to transitive or intransitive verb or something else, please reply.

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Mar 07, 2018 at 6:30 pm

      Hi Munawar,

      The passive voice works best when their is an object who received the action. Your sentences don’t have that exactly, but you could get a similar meaning by saying “The money was earned (by her) due to her hard work” and “The water was brought (by him)”. Find out more about the passive in this post:

      • Shahla Naghiyeva says:

        Feb 15, 2019 at 2:03 pm

        Dear teacher I’ve a question about Passive causiteve should we change negative modals to positive ones in this situation “Ann can’t clean her room “

        • Tanya Trusler says:

          Feb 19, 2019 at 7:47 pm

          Hi Shahla, you can use a positive or negative modal in a passive sentence (“The room can/can’t be cleaned by Ann”). But I don’t think we would ever use “can” or “can’t” with the passive causative.

  13. Prof. Richard J. Cadena says:

    Jan 22, 2018 at 2:21 am

    I am looking for diagrammed sentences using the passive causative form (have + noun or pronoun + past participle verb). I am writing a high level grammar based business writing course for senior executives in a Spanish speaking country. I have not found any diagrammed examples of the passive causative. Here is an example:
    Multinational companies must – have + a transfer pricing study + performed – for income tax purposes every year.
    Any and all help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Jan 25, 2018 at 2:35 pm

      Unfortunately I’m unable to diagram sentences in a comment box like this. However, I think you could easily write your example sentence using the patterns in the PDF above. This would help your students see the different parts and understand how the passive causative was formed. Best of luck to you!

    • satari says:

      Feb 26, 2018 at 4:41 am

      thank you madam it’s so well for study

      • Tanya Trusler says:

        Feb 26, 2018 at 2:34 pm

        You’re welcome, Satari!

  14. Sadiq says:

    Dec 10, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    Hi. I have another question , if it is possible please answer to!!
    How can I change this sentence to passive form.” She works hard to earn money or he works to bring water.
    Please change these sentences to the passive form. Thanks

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Dec 14, 2017 at 1:52 pm

      Hi Sadiq, these two sentences can’t really be changed into the passive form with the same meaning. Not all sentences work in the passive. The best you could do would be to say something like “The money was earned by her hard work” and “The water was brought by him”.

  15. reyhaneh says:

    Nov 14, 2017 at 8:45 am

    thank you so much . it was realy usefull

  16. Zahra Ali says:

    Nov 08, 2017 at 12:39 am

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

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Nov 08, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      Fantastic! Thanks for commenting, Zahra.

  17. 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 :)

    • 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!

  18. Payman says:

    Oct 18, 2017 at 12:07 am

    Thanks a lot
    You solved our problems I am from Afghanistan

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Oct 18, 2017 at 1:56 pm

      Great! Thanks for commenting.

  19. 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.

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Sep 11, 2017 at 7:45 pm

      I’m glad this post helped you, Rafael!

  20. siavash says:

    Sep 08, 2017 at 11:46 am

    thanks a million
    im iranian
    thanks for teaching me

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Sep 11, 2017 at 7:45 pm

      You’re welcome! Thanks for your comment.

  21. AKSIL imane says:

    May 04, 2017 at 6:20 am

    How about ing geround

  22. 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.

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Feb 26, 2014 at 5:58 pm

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

      • Masoud says:

        Feb 03, 2017 at 12:18 pm

        Hi,how about the ommissiin of by phrase?

        • 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!

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed.