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would you please explain to me the difference between the sense, feeling or connotation of the four following sentences:

a) I had him fix my car b) I got him to fix my car c) I had my car fixed (by him). d) I got my car fixed (by him)

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Interesting question, which I've spent a while thinking about.

The difference between the active and passive forms is what we are focusing on - the work being done, or the person doing it.

I got my car fixed

The focus is on getting the car fixed, not on who did it.

I got him to fix my car.

The focus is on him doing something for me, not on the car.

The difference between had and got is more subtle, and often both could be used. But I think that had suggests that it was something I was planning, rather than something that suddenly had to be done. I had my car fixed suggests that I had been driving around with a problem for a while, until I was able to arrange for it to be fixed. I would use got if the windscreen was smashed, or the exhaust fell off, and I needed it fixed in a hurry.

The other point, for me, is that I don't think I'd use the active had at all: to me that is an American expression. I'd say I had a table built but I don't think I'd say I had Paul build a table for me. Because of the "intention" thing, I probably wouldn't say I got Paul to build a table for me either - I'd most likely say Paul built me a table, and leave the listener to assume that I had initiated the process.

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  • thanks for your helpful reply. However, American speakers use “have someone do something” very frequently. Eg, I had him answer my questions; or, I had my students do the exercises; in such cases, using a passive mode can not convey the speaker’s intention. now, what do you think is the difference between “I got my students to do the exercises” and “I had my students do the exercises” ?
    – raz site
    May 29 at 21:34
  • One's British and the other American? May 30 at 14:44

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