Causative Verbs

1. What is a causative verb?

Causative verbs are used to describe a person or thing that causes an action to happen. The most common causative verbs are let, make, have, get, and help.

These verbs can be used in any tense. When you use a causative verb, however, there is a grammatically correct way to structure (organize) your sentence. Below, we’ll take a look at how to use each of the most common causative verbs correctly.

 

2. Examples of Causative Verbs

Example 1-

I wish my dad would let me go to the party.

  • The correct pattern for the causative verb “let” is “Let” + person/thing + base verb.
  • Does this sentence follow the pattern? Let’s see.
  • Do we see the causative verb let? Yes.
  • Is it followed by a person? Yes, it’s followed by me.
  • Is the person (me) followed by a base verb? Yes, it’s followed by go.
  • This sentence correctly uses the causative verb “let.”

 

Example 2-

Joseph’s mom made him take out the trash.

  • The correct pattern for the causative verb “make” is “Make” + person + base verb.
  • Does this sentence follow the pattern? Let’s check.
  • Does it include the base verb made? Yes, in the form of make.
  • Is it followed by a person? Yes, him, which refers to Joseph.
  • Is the person (him) followed by a base verb? Yes, it’s followed by take.
  • This sentence correctly uses the causative verb “make.”

 

3. Types of Causative Verbs

a. “Let”

The causative verb “let” is used to express that we’ve given someone permission to do something. Sentences using the causative verb “let” generally follow this pattern:

  • “Let” + Person/thing + Base form of verb

The base form of a verb, also simply called a base verb, is the basic, plain version of a verb that you would find in the dictionary, such as play, jump, run, sing, drive, and kick.

Example:

Mom let my brother drive the car.

  • In this sentence we see the causative verb let.
  • Let is followed by a person/thing (in this case, my brother).
  • The person/thing (my brother) is then followed by a base verb, drive.
  • Therefore, this sentence follows the pattern “Let” + Person/thing + Base form of verb, correctly using the causative verb “let.”

Two less common causative verbs, “permit” and “allow” are synonyms of “let.” These two causative verbs follow a similar pattern:

  • “Permit” or “Allow” + Person/thing + Infinitive form of verb

The infinitive form of a verb, also called an infinitive, is just the base verb with the word “to” in front of it, such as to play, to jump, to run, to sing, to drive, and to kick.

Example:

My school does not permit the students to wear flip flops.

  • This sentence uses the causative verb permit.
  • Permit is followed by a person/thing (the students).
  • After the person/thing (the students), this sentence includes the infinitive to wear.
  • This means that the sentence correctly uses the causative verb It follows the pattern “Permit” + person/thing + infinitive.
  • This sentence would be the same if we used the verb “allow” instead of “permit,” as in, “My school does not allow the students to wear flip flops.”

b. “Make”

The causative verb “make” is used to express that someone has forced someone else to do something. With “make,” we use the following pattern:

  • “Make” + person + base verb

Example:

My mom made me clean my room before the party.

  • This example uses made, form of the causative verb “make.”
  • Made is followed by a person (me).
  • This person (me) is followed by the base verb clean.
  • This sentence correctly follows the pattern “Make” + person + base verb. This is the proper way to use the causative verb “make”.

“Force” and “require” are two less common causative verbs that have the same meaning as “make.” They follow a similar pattern:

  • “Force” or “Require” + person + infinitive

Example:

The law requires everyone to wear a seatbelt in the car.

  • In this sentence, we see a form of the causative verb require.
  • Requires is followed by a person (everyone).
  • After the person (everyone), the sentence includes the infinitive to wear.
  • This is how to correctly use the causative verb “require”: “Force” or “Require + person + infinitive.
  • This sentence would be the same if we replaced the verb “requires” with the verb “forces” as in, “The law forces everyone to wear a seatbelt in the car.”

c. “Have”

The causative verb “have” is used to explain that we’re going to get someone else to do something. There are two different patterns we can use with the causative verb “have.”

The first pattern is:

  • “Have” + person + base verb

Example:

I’ll have my mom call your mom and ask if you can come over.

  • This sentence uses the causative verb have.
  • After have, the sentence mentions a person (my mom).
  • My mom is followed by the base verb call.
  • This sentence correctly uses the pattern for the causative verb “have”: “Have + person + base verb.

The second pattern for the causative verb “have” is:

A past participle is the base verb with an “ed” ending, such as played, jumped, painted, watched, or cried. (NOTE: This is only true for regular verbs, which follow a regular pattern. Irregular verbs don’t follow this pattern and have different endings: drove, ran, sang, etc.)

Example:

I need to have my car washed.

  • This example uses the causative verb have.
  • Have is followed by a thing (my car).
  • After my car, the sentence also uses a past participle (washed).
  • This sentence also correctly uses the causative verb “have,” following the pattern “Have + thing + past participle of verb.

Both patterns for the causative verb “have” explain that you’re going to get someone else to do something. However, the first pattern is used when you’re explaining exactly who is going to do the action. The second pattern is used when you aren’t sure who’s going to do the action.

d. “Get”

We use the causative verb “get” to describe convincing or encouraging someone to do something. It follows this pattern:

  • Get + person + infinitive

Example:

How can I get my sister to do my chores?

  • This sentence uses the causative verb
  • Get is followed by a person (my sister).
  • This person (my sister) is followed by the infinitive to do.
  • This sentence correctly uses the causative verb “get” by following the pattern “Get” + person + infinitive.

e. “Help”

The causative verb “help” is used when someone assists someone else in completing a task. There are two correct patterns for the causative verb “help.” You can use either one of the following:

  • Help + person + base verb
  • Help + person + infinitive

Although both of these patterns are correct, the first one (the base verb instead of the infinitive) is more common.

Example 1:

My mom helps me complete my homework.

  • In this example, we see the causative verb help.
  • Help is followed by a person (me).
  • The person (me) is followed by the base verb complete.
  • This sentence demonstrates one way to correctly use the causative verb “help”: “Help” + person + base verb.

Example 2:

My mom helps me to complete my homework.

  • This example also uses the causative verb help.
  • Help is followed by a person (me) again.
  • This time, the person (me) is followed by the infinitive to complete.
  • This sentence demonstrates the second way to correctly use the causative verb help: “Help” + person + infinitive.

Both of these sentences are grammatically correct, but most people would agree that the first version of the sentence sounds more natural.

Remember that causative verbs are used to explain that someone or something causes an action to happen. You can use any form of the verb, but you do need to organize your sentences correctly.

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