I'm confused because I'm unsure about the innate nature of a verb. Help, Let, Make, etc., are known or classified as causative verbs. So in the sentence: 'I made the student do his homework', the verb to make is a causative verb. However, 'Make him stop!' or 'Help me please', the verb is imperative.

But if you research it you find the grammar books all say that to make etc. are causative verbs... So are they causative verbs being used in the imperative, or does the verb change its classification? Additionally, in the sentence,'I made a cake', to make here is just a regular verb, as is,'Have you got a cat?', or 'Have a nice day'...so I'm confused.


1 Answer 1


Of course they can. Just like any reasonable large group of things you can classify them in different ways.

For example, can an animal have more than one classification? Well a mouse is a "rodent", it is a "pest" (in some contexts) it is a "pet" (in others). It might be called a "small" animal, or a "cute" animal. It eats anything, so it is an "omnivore"... So mice belong to all these categories.

Now a verb like "make" can be used to form a causative structure "I made him do his homework". Or it can be a have a meaning of "construct": "I made a poster"

And verbs have different grammatical tenses, voices, aspects, moods etc.

English can be confusing, because the mood etc might be indicated by the syntax, not by verb endings.

I make something everyday (indicative, meaning "construct")

Make a poster. (imperative, meaning "construct")

I make him run. (indicative, indicating causative)

Make him make a poster (the first "make" is the causative meaning and its mood is imperative. The second make is the "construct" meaning and it is in the infinitive form.)

English is a language in which you have to look at the syntax to decide how a word works. (Linguists call it an "analytical" language)

  • Thankyou, and in my research that's what I concluded...so how come when look up causatives for example it ( various websites and dictionaries) states rather simply that MAKE is a causative verb.Surely it should say that MAKE ( or let etc...) is commonly used in causative structures.To say that MAKE IS a causative verb is very confusing. Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 22:23
  • 1
    Because "x is a causative verb" is a shorthand for "x is used to create causative structures when combined with other verbs". That is, the defining property of causative verbs is their ability to be used in causative structures. On the other hand "imperative" is not a type of verb, but a "mood" that verbs may have.
    – James K
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 23:28
  • Thank you. I needed confirmation and couldn't find it in most readily available literature. As a teacher☺️🫣I want to understand things completely and I want to be able to answer all questions. You have been very helpful. Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 10:56
  • And "have" can be a regular transitive verb ("I have a dog"), causative ("I had him clean the windows"), or an auxiliary verb ("I have worked here for years").
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 5 at 15:08
  • "English is a language in which you have to look at the syntax to decide how a wor[d] works." - To underscore this point, note that the plain form of the verb (no suffix) is used in the imperative ("Make me (eat) a sandwich"), the simple present ("They make us (eat) sandwiches"), and the infinitive ("I want to make you (eat) a sandwich"). Those examples are causative with "eat" and non-causative without.
    – nschneid
    Commented Apr 4 at 23:58

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