I will have it done by tomorrow

Would you please by some example describe what does the bold part mean?

I think the bold part is passive, isn't it?

Thanks in advance

  • @StoneyB I am sorry. Overlooked that "it" is between "have" and "done". You are right. I will delete my previous comment to avoid confusion. And I will edit the tag of the question that I already and wrongly tagged with "future perfect" tag. My mistake. Sorry again :) Sep 4, 2014 at 13:56

2 Answers 2


This sentence is ambiguous: it may represent either of two related but syntactically distinct constructions.

  1. It may be read as employing causative HAVE—this is the sort of construction which HostileFork describes. In this construction HAVE means cause and it takes a bare-infinitive clause as its complement; when the clause is cast in the passive voice, the infinitive be is deleted:

    ACTIVE: I will have John paint the house.
    PASSIVE: I will have the house be painted (by John). (The by phrase is optional.)

  2. Alternatively, it may be read as employing resultative HAVE, in which HAVE has its ordinary sense of ‘possess, hold’ and the constituent following the direct object is a secondary complement describing the direct object. That constituent may be any construction which can act as a noun modifier: an adjective phrase, a preposition phrase, or a present or past participle phrase:

    We have the system AdjPhrready to go.
    We have the system PrepPhron stand-by.
    We have the system PrePplPhrrunning smoothly.
    We have the system PaPplPhrcompletely fixed.

I think your example is more likely to represent the resultative sense than the causative, but without more context it is impossible to be sure.

In either case, you are correct in thinking of done as some sort of passive: when the past participle of a transitive verb is employed as an adjective it has a passive sense, it describes the noun it modifies as ‘acted upon’. This is why some grammarians prefer to call this verbform a ‘passive participle’ in these situations.


Most of the time a sentence that looks like this is used, it means the same thing as:

I will finish it by tomorrow.

For instance: imagine your teacher asks when you are going to turn in an essay. If you say "I will have it done by tomorrow.", he will not think you are hiring someone else to do your homework!

This is a bit strange. Because usually when you speak about "having something done", you mean someone else will be doing it at your direction. For some reason, "I will have it done by (time)" came to mean "I will finish it by (time)" anyway.

It may have originally developed from wanting to emphasize "one way or another, it will be finished--no matter what it takes!" Not identifying who will be doing something makes things sound otherworldly and firm, think of: "It will be done." So perhaps wanting to sound firm is why it's the response to being asked about something you alone are responsible for (like homework).

Still, in certain contexts it actually does mean:

It will be done--by someone who is not me--and I will ensure this happens before tomorrow.

For instance:

  • "I told you to hire some workers to come in here and fix the hole in the wall. When is that going to happen?"

  • "I will have it done by tomorrow."

So you have to look at context to know what the meaning is supposed to be.

Notice that if you say "I will have it done by April" that could either mean you will be doing it by the month of April, or you will be hiring someone named April to do it. :-)

  • So, does it carry a passive meaning or not? it is my question
    – nima
    Sep 4, 2014 at 13:54
  • @nima_persian It does carry a passive sense as "have something done" here means "have something done by somebody". But I am not sure whether to call that sentence a passive sentence or not. Sep 4, 2014 at 14:01
  • @HostileFork "I will finish it by tomorrow" and "I will have it done by tomorrow" is not the same thing. Where the first sentence means "the doer of the task is me", the second means "I will get/find someone to finish it by tomorrow". Sep 4, 2014 at 14:09
  • @Man_From_India Sub-clauses in a sentence can be passive, even if the main clause is active. Consider for instance "He died and was buried." We know who died (he did) but not who did the burying... Sep 4, 2014 at 14:10
  • @Man_From_India I can only tell you as a native and long-term English speaker that the most frequent use of "I will have it done by tomorrow." is, indeed, as a response when someone asks a person about a completion time--of something that only they are working on. It's just how it is used. I pointed out a case where that is not what it means in my answer, but that those usages happen to be more rare. Sep 4, 2014 at 14:12

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