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"I had my car repaired." and "I got my car repaired." mean the same thing, and, superficially, seem to work in the same way: subject + have/got + object + Past Participle.

Why then, do I have to say and write "I had someone repair my car." but "I got someone to repair my car."?

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Every verb has its own rules for what sorts of complement it permits and what sorts it forbids. These rules are in the end completely arbitrary, and there's no rule or general principle you can point to say “Why” one verb works one way and another verb works another. It’s a matter of historical contingency; at some point the language drifted toward doing it that way and not another way.

You can in some cases point to possible historical influences. In this case, for instance, have has been acting as an auxiliary for a very long time, over a thousand years, and the particular sorts of complement it takes were determined before the infinitive marked with to existed in its current form. Get, however, was only pressed into service as an auxiliary much later. From the 15th into the 17th century the language experimented with get X for to VERB-inf and get VERB-inf X before settling on get X to VERB. But there's no rule there that will predict any other verb's complementation pattern; history is only useful as a mnemonic respecting get.

That’s how idioms work: you have to learn them one by one.

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  • I know these two verbs are complemented in different ways; the question was simply why do they appear to work similarly in "I had/got my car repaired." when in fact they don't… – user58319 Jan 15 '14 at 13:32
  • @user58319 They just do. In the passive, causative have and get take the bare PaPrt in the complement ("have/get it repaired"); let takes a bare Inf + PaPrt ("let it be repaired"); cause takes a marked Inf + PaPrt ("caused it to be repaired"); arrange takes for + marked Inf + PaPrt ("arranged for it to be repaired"); order takes that + bare Inf + PaPrt ("ordered that it be repaired") OR marked Inf + PaPrt ("ordered it to be repaired"). There's no Why, except that that's what Great Mother English decided. – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 15 '14 at 14:18
  • 'Ordered that it be repaired.' (equivalent to British English 'Ordered that it should be repaired.'), a passive Present Subjunctive. – user58319 Jan 15 '14 at 14:25
  • @user58319 It is called a subjunctive form in traditional grammar, but many (perhaps most) contemporary linguists dispute the term. I'd say it's the Inf form elicited by a subjunctive context; but if we're getting formal, I attribute tense, voice and mood not to verbs but to clauses. – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 15 '14 at 14:30
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The answer is in 'superficially'! I mean, "I had my car repaired." and "I got my car repaired." seem to be two verbs which work in the same way, but they only SEEM to do so.

Here is why:

  • active sentence: "I had someone repair my car."
  • turned into a passive sentence: "I had my car be repaired by someone."

  • SIMPLIFIED passive sentence, 'be' is dropped: "I had my car repaired."

  • active sentence: "I got someone to repair my car."

  • turned into a passive sentence: "I got my car to be repaired by someone."

  • SIMPLIFIED passive sentence, 'to be' is dropped: "I got my car repaired."

So, the two simplified passive sentences are the same, but only because they were simplified.

This is another instance of the need to go back to complete, unsimplified sentences before we start wondering whether two phrases are the same or not, work the same way or not, obey the same rules or not.

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  • This doesn't address OP's question, which is why have takes an unmarked infinitive and get takes a marked infinitive. – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 15 '14 at 12:27
  • @StoneyB OP's question? The question is where/when did these marked and unmarked infinitive got lost? – user58319 Jan 15 '14 at 12:29
  • infinitives, sorry. – user58319 Jan 15 '14 at 12:30
  • They're not lost, they're right there: have X ∅ repair vs get X to repair. And that's what OP asks: 'Why then, do I have to say and write "I had someone repair my car." but "I got someone to repair my car."?' – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 15 '14 at 12:32

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