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Background: I'm a native speaker of English, who is learning French. Often, when I don't know how to translate an English sentence into French, it makes me realize that there is something "special" going on in the English sentence, and then I become curious about it.


  • She loved her dog, but she had him put down.
  • His manager was so angry at him, that she had him fired.
  • Her food was improperly cooked, so she had it returned back to the kitchen.

All of these sentences uses the word "had" in a way to mean something like "caused [something] to be ____ ".

Questions:

  1. Grammatically, what is happening here? Is there some kind of grammatical name for this, that I can try to research in order to see how this same grammatical feature can be done in French?

  2. "She had [him] [put down]". When using "had" in this way, is it always followed by something or someone (eg, "[him]") followed by a past participle that says what happens to that something or someone (eg, "[put down]")? Or are there other constructions possible when using "had" to mean "caused to become ___"?

  3. Do dictionaries or other references discuss this uses of "had"? For example, the English-to-French wordreference page does not seem to mention it.

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    Not always the past participle. She had him ask for directions. They had us assemble in the conference room. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 12 '18 at 11:23
  • This question is maybe more suited to English Language & Usage. – Robusto Aug 12 '18 at 11:25
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    Look up causatives in French – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 12 '18 at 11:28
  • @Robusto: could you help me understand why this is better for EL&L? I read on some meta post (either ELL meta or EL&L meta; i'm not sure which) that there are many questions on EL&L that should be on ELL, but not the other way around, so if in doubt, write the question on ELL. – silph Aug 12 '18 at 11:31
  • @silph There's no difference between EL&U (English Language and Usage) and ELL (English Language Learners) with respect to grammar or word usage. EL&U is used for single word requests (essentially crossword puzzles) and etymologies of words which are obviously not useful to learners of English, but rather to people who'd like to satisfy their curiosity about certain words. – userr2684291 Aug 12 '18 at 12:05
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This is causative HAVE and you'll find it on the page you link under Traductions supplémentaires: have [sth] done ..arrange, cause .. faire faire [qch].

A little more technically:

  • what follows HAVE is a complement clause whose subject is "raised" to object of HAVE—that is, it is expressed in the object case.

    I had him fix my car = He fixed my car. I caused that to happen.

  • If the complement clause is passive, the verb is reduced to the past participle; be is omitted.

    I had my dog put down = My dog was put down. I caused that to happen.

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