Writing Great Emails–Causative Have



(1) To rephrase: To say something in a different way

I don’t understand your English. Could you rephrase that sentence?

(2) To cause: To make something happen

When the CEO suddenly retired, it caused stock prices to fall dramatically.

(3) To take responsibility: To accept that you’re in charge of something

I can’t take responsibility for the sales in Japan and China. I need to focus on one market.



1. What is the grammatical form of causative have?

a. Subject + have + object + past participle of the verb

b. Indirect subject + have + past participle of the verb

c. Subject + have + object

2. Which sentence has a mistake?

a. I’m having you all fired!

b. I’ll have you all fired!

c. I had you all fire!

3. What’s one good use of causative have?

a. For making the subject clear

b. For when the actor doesn’t matter

c. For when someone caused someone else to act


Writing Great Emails


En-velop_bleu By Jeremy Schaar

I had my car stolen.

I had my hair cut.

He’s having his shoes shined.

She had the tumor removed.

What do all these sentences have in common? It’s some high level grammar that you may not use in your emails, but which is very useful. Today, you’ll learn about something called “causative have” and how you can use it to make your emails stronger.

Let’s start by rephrasing the sentences from above to make sure you understand them.

I had my car stolen = Someone stole my car.

I had my hair cut = Someone cut my hair.

He’s having his shoes shined. = Someone is shining his shoes.

She had the tumor removed. = A doctor removed the tumor.

In English, you should usually use the main actor of a sentence as the subject. For example, “Mike read the book.” is better than “The book was read by Mike.”

Mike does the action (reading) so he comes at the beginning of the sentence and is followed by a clear verb.

But sometimes the actor doesn’t matter. In those cases, we often use the passive voice and also often delete the actor.

For example, we might say, “The report was written on Tuesday.” We don’t care who wrote it. The report is what’s important.

So what’s causative have and why is it useful? Imagine a situation where it’s important for someone to be the subject of the sentence, but they don’t do the important action. Instead, they cause the action in some way. In that case, we want to hide the actor, but we don’t want to put the object at the start.

For instance, if Mike’s car is stolen, it’s important that the sentence start with Mike. He’s the most important. We also care about the car. However, we don’t know who stole it, so we say:

Mike had his car stolen!

Crimes are a common use for causative have. Another is with services.

I had my nails done.

We don’t care who the nail technician was. You and your nails are the important things. But note that you cause the action. You went to the nail salon and paid for the service. You caused your nails to be done.

Now let’s look at some business examples:

Situation: Mike is writing. He told someone to change the time for the deadline. What’s important is that he acted and that the deadline has changed. He can say:

I had the deadline pushed back to give us some more time.

Situation: Karen is writing. She told Bill to write a report, but she wants to take responsibility.

I had the report written up. Bill will give it to us later.

Want more practice? Got questions? Comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.


Answers To Today’s Questions

A, C, C


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

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