Typically, adults in their late twenties or thirties who develop asthmatic symptoms will recall having had mild asthma as a child and are surprised that they continue to have asthma in adulthood or, as they describe, have it "come back after so many years."

Does it mean 'make'?

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    It means something very close to have in "have asthma" =>"to experience for oneself". I emptied the pail of slops only to have a gust of wind blow them back onto my shirt and trousers. May 11 '17 at 19:06
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    Or "I am always careful when crossing the road, as I don't want to have a car knock me over"
    – WS2
    May 11 '17 at 19:09
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    In your context, have it come back could (clumsily, perhaps) be paraphrased as undergo the experience of having it come back. Nothing to do with make it [blah blah], which implies voluntarily causing something to happen. May 11 '17 at 20:34

Have can be used as an auxiliary with the meaning make or cause, for example:

He had them build him a house.

He had a house built.

But in this case it means experience, with an implication that the experience was not welcome. Other examples of this are:

I had the car break down on me.

I had my assistant quit last week.

I do not think there is a grammatical difference between the two constructions: I think it is purely semantic. If the thing happening is not something that the person is likely to choose, it has the second meaning. There may well be cases where it is actually ambiguous, with either interpretation being possible, though I can't think of one.


If you make something happen (or something is made to happen) there is an actor who is the cause of the result. In contrast, when you have something happen, there is no actor, or the actor is unimportant. It simply happens, without cause.

Compare these two sentences:

The other night, my girlfriend made us a nice dinner.

The other night, I had a nice dinner with my girlfriend.

In the first sentence it's clear who made the dinner. In the second it's not, possibly because I don't think it's important.

In a similar way when talking about an old ailment, having the symptoms return implies there is no significant reason for it (unless you provide additional information). It just happens without cause.

The changing weather is making my old knee injury flare up (be in pain).

I'm having pain from my old knee injury.

  • @ Andrew: I was confused about the usage between (I had her go to counseling. /I had a nice dinner prepared for us.) and (I had it come back after so many years)
    – whitecap
    May 11 '17 at 20:13
  • The verb "to have" has many uses, both as a regular verb and as a helping verb. "I had her clean the dishes" indicates an imperative of some kind, like "I told her to clean the dishes". Other examples, "I had the children go to their rooms", "Steve had the delivery company take the piano upstairs", "My girlfriend made dinner but she had me make dessert." etc. I think you get this, but here it's not the imperative.
    – Andrew
    May 11 '17 at 21:01

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