You had a book published.

I get confused to figure out whether the sentence is in a causative structure(have something done) or a relative clause structure where relative pronon was omitted, because the structure seems to be the same as both structures.

This sentence seems to have the same structure as:

1-the short form of a sentence with a relative clause, eg. "You had a book which was published." (we can remove "which was", and the sentence becomes exactly "You had a book published." This is true for sentences where relative pronoun is omitted. For instance "You had a house (which was) painted in blue.= You had a house painted in blue."

2-or the sentence might simply be in a causative structure (have something done.). For instance "I had my hair cut".

So, how should I interpret this sentence? A sentence in causative structure? or a sentence in relative clause where relative pronoun was omitted.?


  • 3
    Could mean either, although to me the most likely meaning is 'you wrote a book, and it was accepted for publication by a publishing company at its expense'. Jan 4, 2022 at 15:09
  • 1
    I'm unfamiliar with category 1. Your example, "had a book published," is either category 2 or another category, which is kind of passive rather than causative - "he had an arm blown off in the war" or "he had his secrets revealed."
    – cruthers
    Jan 4, 2022 at 23:28
  • @cruthers The causative meaning or "have sth. verb" is that you arranged to have something happen, for example "I had the roof fixed" means that I arranged for somebody to fix the roof.
    – JavaLatte
    Jan 5, 2022 at 23:50
  • 1
    @yunus most people would express meaning 1 by saying "I had a published book". It's more concise, more conventional and avoids confusion with the causative version.
    – JavaLatte
    Jan 5, 2022 at 23:51
  • 1
    There are already multiple answers and comments, so I'll just note that if you want "published" to modify "book" attributively, then you should write "You had a published book." Of course, this is probably not the intended meaning. Jan 5, 2022 at 23:51

2 Answers 2


The sentence has one meaning, which is causitive passive, and means you caused a book to be published.

The full sentence of version 1, "You had a book which was published" can only mean something like, "You had in your possession a book which somebody had published". It cannot mean the same as the causitive version because the causitive structure is [ "have/get" + object + past participle* ], but the full sentence version includes "which was", and those words cannot be part of the causitive meaning


Being super-technical, the formal structure of that sentence could be causative or an ellipsis.

But almost no one would interpret it that way, because the normal meaning of "book" is something that was published. "Book that was published" is close to redundant. There are cases where a book, meaning a long piece of text, is written but not published. Samizdat is an example, but if we were using the word "book" to mean a long writing that was not published, then the sentence would be contradictory.

We do not parse sentences just according to formal rules; we also parse them so that they have meaning.

The overwhelming likelihood is that the sentence is causative.

I also agree with gotube to this extent: people speak or write to convey meaning. If someone meant to convey "you had a book that was published," they would avoid saying you had a "you had a book published" because that would likely be misconstrued.

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