This is from a British TV show. Abi locks Jeff in a room so he doesn't wreck the wedding of a relative. After the wedding is over, Abi explains her action to a third person by saying:

I couldn't have him wreck their day, could I?

Why didn't Abi use "let" and say:

I couldn't let him wreck their day, could I?

Would there be a difference?

1 Answer 1


Nice question. have can mean "arrange/cause to occur" (I had my hair cut); or it can mean "permit to occur" when used with negated forms of can or will (I couldn't have the puppy be chewing up our shoes, now could I?)

  • 1
    "Your puppy is chewing up my shoes! Do something about it! I won't have it!" I think that better matches the OP's context, so rather than "arrange/cause to occur", I suggest it's "permit, tolerate, allow" - your second possibility. Aug 18, 2023 at 2:31
  • Of course. That was what I said. I had my hair cut is the example of arrange/cause and the puppy is the example of permit to occur. I thought the symmetry was evident. Each example usage is enclosed in parentheses following the brief definition to which it applies. Maybe I should put a semicolon before or for people who don't use symmetry but punctuation to glean meaning. Aug 18, 2023 at 10:28
  • I think there has to be some explicit element expressing volition for the negated version to convey "refusal to permit, tolerate, allow" (couldn't, won't,...). So, for example, I don't have my beard trimmed by the barber simply negates the "cause to occur" sense - it has to be I won't have my beard trimmed by the barber to negate the "permit" sense. Aug 18, 2023 at 10:39
  • I agree, but have fun explaining why don't is not volitional. Aug 18, 2023 at 10:40

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