For example, in the following sentence, can I replace have them with makes them, or is there another verb that more correctly I could use instead of has?

Since the manufacturers are so deeply involved, in some cases Wal-Mart even has them handle their own distribution, saving the retailer big bucks and increasing profit margins on cheaper goods.

Another example could be the following one.

The doctor sends my father and Uncle Johnnie out for all the ice they can get. Then he has them dump the ice in the bathtub, add cold water almost to the top, whereupon my aunt is wrestled into the tub and submerged.


4 Answers 4


There are several constructions of the form

  • have NP VP (to not allowed)

One of them is a causative construction; as noted, there are other causatives as well. A causative always entails that an event happened or a state changed; but there are different ways to cause this, and different ways to talk about it.

  • make NP VP (to not allowed)
    I made him examine me means I forced him to do it.

  • get NP to VP (to required)
    I got him to examine me means I had to persuade him to do it.

  • caused NP to VP (to required)
    I caused him to examine me means only that he did it and I was responsible. It's very formal.

The causative have NP VP construction is quite common with a past participle clause

  • I had my tires replaced yesterday, while my car was in the shop.
    (basically a passive with indefinite subject, from I had them replace my tires)

There's another very different have NP VP construction - the subject is not the agent but the patient.

  • I had my tires slashed last night, while my car was parked outside.

This one is always passive and often (though not always) deals with a bad outcome

  • I had my dearest dreams crushed by their betrayal.
  • I had my wildest dreams fulfilled by their assistance.

They are both correct, but "has them" is a much gentler way of stating things. "Makes them" is harsh and commanding. If you are writing a positive or informative article about WalMart, "has them" would be good. If you are upset about how WalMart treats its manufacturers, use "makes them".


It is probably somewhere between "instructs them to" and "makes them" depending on the context. "makes them" is rather strong language and probably should be reserved for situations where there is some force behind the action, for example a contract with Wal-Mart.

"has them" is fine, but is vague related to the intended meaning.


A minuscule grab-bag of alternate verbs for various shades of causation: you can command, demand, pay, wheedle, beg, force, cause, insist, browbeat, blackmail, order, bribe, threaten, intimidate, and so forth. Some of these are direct replacements, but most need additional bits of grammar -- in place of "has them sing" you'd have to say something like "bribes them to sing" or "threatens them into singing." Although I'll admit usually the problem is to get singers to stop singing.

  • 2
    Welcome to ELL and thank you for your answer. Please take a few minutes to review our tour and help center pages. Remember: explaining why is as important as telling what for new learners of English. We hope you'll contribute more! Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 3:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .