Grammar: ‘Have Something Done’
‘Have something done’ is how most teachers refer to this passive form. It’s really called the Causative ‘Have’. We use this structure when we arrange (and usually pay) for someone else to do something for us.
Think about the occasions when you have something done. For example, do you repair your bicycle or car yourself, or do you have it repaired? Do you decorate your own house, or do you have it decorated? Would you take out your own tooth (I hope not!), or would you have it taken out?
You can find a more detailed explanation of this structure and how and when we use it in the Grammar Reference. Here’s a quick reminder.
Notice that we haven’t included the agent in the above example. This is because it’s usually obvious who’s doing the action. So if someone says : “I’ve had my hair cut”, we assume they’ve been to the hairdresser’s.
We’re going to continue with our theme of the beauty salon to practise this. Let’s start with the verbs that we’ll need (look up any you’re not sure about). In this way we can also do some vocabulary practice.
Regular: straighten, shave, wax, pierce, dye, pluck
Irregular: cut, do, make up
Look at these pictures and match them with one of the verbs.
Now look at what’s happening in each picture. Remember the word order is have (in the correct tense) + object + past participle.
In Picture 1, she’s already had her ear pierced. What are the other people having done?
(Answers at the bottom of the page.)
We mentioned decorating your house before, and that’s something a lot of people enjoy. It’s called DIY (Do It Yourself). But not everybody has a practical side! So this is another typical area that we need the have something done structure.
Imagine an old retired couple, maybe in their seventies or eighties. Let’s call them Ethel and Harry. Their dream has always been to buy a little cottage in the countryside, but they haven’t got much money saved up. In fact, this is all they can afford:
As you can see, the cottage isn’t in good condition! A lot of work needs doing. Need + verb + ing is another passive form. What we’re really saying is that someone needs to do these things.
The roof tiles and the windows need replacing.
The door needs repairing.
The fence needs fixing.
The walls need painting.
The garden needs clearing.
The grass needs cutting.
Ethel and Harry count their savings, and luckily they’ve got just enough money to buy the cottage and pay for the repairs. So they go ahead, and the workmen start renovating the cottage. Three months go by … and look at their dream-house now!
As you can see, they’ve had a lot of work done! (Remember, they organised and paid for it all, but they didn’t do it themselves!)
Look back at all the things that needed doing, and write sentences to describe what Ethel and Harry have had done. For example:
They‘ve had the roof tiles replaced.
(Answers at the bottom of the page.)
So at last Ethel and Harry can move into their dream cottage! There are still lots of jobs to do – they’re going to have some things done by professionals, but they’re going to do some of the jobs themselves. They’re going to have the washing machine installed, but Ethel’s going to paint the kitchen herself. They’re going to have the electricity connected, but Harry’s going to make the curtains himself.
And what about you? Think about some things you’d like to have done in your house, and some things you’re going to do yourself. DIY can be fun!
You can find further practice of using the passive – including active to passive transformations – in Passive Forms.
And check out all the grammar and vocabulary exercises in our Guide to the Posts.
Answers to the beauty salon exercise:
3. She’s having her hair straightened.
4. She’s having her head shaved.
5. She’s having her face made up.
6. He’s having his eyebrows plucked.
7. She’s having her hair dyed.
8. He’s having his arm tattooed.
9. She’s having her legs waxed.
Answers to the renovations exercise:
They’ve had the windows replaced.
They’ve had the door repaired.
They’ve had the fence fixed.
They’ve had the walls painted.
They’ve had the garden cleared.
They’ve had the grass cut.