The English verbs let, make, have, get, and help are called causative verbs because they cause something else to happen.
Here are some specific examples of how causative verbs work in English sentences.
How to use causative verbs in English
1. LET = permit something to happen
LET + PERSON/THING + VERB (base form)
- I don’t let my kids watch violent movies.
- Mary’s father won’t let her adopt a puppy because he’s allergic to dogs.
- Our boss doesn’t let us eat lunch at our desks; we have to eat in the cafeteria.
- Oops! I wasn’t paying attention while cooking, and I let the food burn.
- Don’t let the advertising expenses surpass $1000.
Remember: The past tense of let is also let; there is no change!
Note: The verbs allow and permit are more formal ways to say “let”. However, with allow and permit, we use to + verb:
- I don’t allow my kids to watch violent movies.
- Our boss doesn’t permit us to eat lunch at our desks.
2. MAKE = force or require someone to take an action
MAKE + PERSON + VERB (base form)
- After Billy broke the neighbor’s window, his parents made him pay for it.
- My ex-boyfriend loved sci-fi and made me watch every episode of his favorite show.
- The teacher made all the students rewrite their papers, because the first drafts were not acceptable.
Note: When using the verbs force and require, we must use to + verb.
- The school requires the students to wear uniforms.
“Require” often implies that there is a rule.
- The hijacker forced the pilots to take the plane in a different direction.
“Force” often implies violence, threats, or extremely strong pressure.
3. HAVE = give someone else the responsibility to do something
HAVE + PERSON + VERB (base form)
HAVE + THING + PAST PARTICIPLE OF VERB
Examples of grammatical structure #1:
- I’ll have my assistant call you to reschedule the appointment.
- The businessman had his secretary make copies of the report.
Examples of grammatical structure #2:
- I’m going to have my hair cut tomorrow.
- We’re having our house painted this weekend.
- Bob had his teeth whitened; his smile looks great!
- My washing machine is broken; I need to have it repaired.
Note: In informal speech, we often use get in these cases:
- I’m going to get my hair cut tomorrow.
- We’re getting our house painted this weekend.
- Bob got his teeth whitened; his smile looks great!
- My washing machine is broken; I need to get it repaired.
4. GET = convince/encourage someone to do something
GET + PERSON + TO + VERB
- How can we get all the employees to arrive on time?
- My husband hates housework; I can never get him to wash the dishes!
- I was nervous about eating sushi, but my brother got me to try it at a Japanese restaurant.
- The non-profit got a professional photographer to take photos at the event for free.
5. HELP = assist someone in doing something
HELP + PERSON + VERB (base form)
HELP + PERSON + TO + VERB
After “help,” you can use “to” or not – both ways are correct. In general, the form without “to” is more common:
- He helped me carry the boxes.
- He helped me to carry the boxes.
- Reading before bed helps me relax.
- Reading before bed helps me to relax.