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There is the following example:

She got her bag caught in the train doors as they were closing.

I surmise I could say . . .

She had her bag caught in the train doors as they were closing.

. . . as well without having any relevant or significant difference in meaning. If not, please tell me as to how they differ in meaning.

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  • 1
    Get and have each have multiple meanings. Which do you intend? Get can mean "to cause to be in a certain position or condition" ("get your hair straightened") or "to be subjected to" ("get shot in the head"). Have here might mean "to cause to be in a certain place or state". So is she deliberately trapping her bag in the train?
    – Stuart F
    Apr 10 at 15:17
  • Both sound a bit awkward to me: Her bag got caught in the train doors as they were closing.
    – jmoreno
    Apr 12 at 3:40
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    One implies a bit more agency: "She got" has a slight suggestion that it happened as a result of her actions. "She had" sounds entirely passive to my ear. "had" also suggests the result is more ongoing -- there she is with her bag still caught, vs. "got" seeming to focus on the bag being caught, which happened earlier than this moment.
    – user8356
    Apr 12 at 13:59
  • 1
    Also interesting to think about moving the action from her to the bag: "Her bag got caught..." / "Her bag had caught..." With those, the focus shift from 1) the moment of getting caught to 2) sometime after getting caught -- seems more definite.
    – user8356
    Apr 12 at 14:03
  • @StuartF There is also get/have + noun + past participle, which is a "thing" in English grammar known as the causative use of those.
    – Lambie
    Apr 13 at 19:23

4 Answers 4

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In American English there's a subtle difference:

Subway Policeman: Why do you have this woman's purse and why is she lying unconscious on the floor of the subway car?

Male Passenger: She had her bag caught in the door and we were both tugging on it trying to get it free. It came loose all of a sudden and we both fell backwards and she hit her head on the edge of the seat.

Other passengers: That's the truth. He's not lying. He's a hero, not a thief. Yadda yadda yadda.

If the Male Passenger had said "She got her bag caught" the Subway Policeman might infer that the Male Passenger had witnessed it getting caught, whereas "She had her bag caught" is simply a way of referring to the existing state of affairs that explains the Male Passenger's involvement.

"She had her bag caught" could be paraphrased "Her bag was caught" whereas "She got her bag caught" could be paraphrased "Her bag got caught".

Compare:

She had her car door open.

She had her cat in the back.

She had the music blaring.

She had some tin cans tied to the bumper.

She had some TP stuck to her shoe.

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    She had her bag caught in the door. here is the same as: She got her bag caught in the door. The grammar here is: get or have + past participle. So, not all your examples work like that. have does have other meanings. It can just be descriptive: She had+ tins cans/ tied to the bumper. tied to the bumper modifies tin cans, for example. She had/some TP/stuck to her shoe. Same idea. Those are not the structure have/get + past participle.
    – Lambie
    Apr 10 at 18:37
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    As I said in my answer, had it caught is appropriate for a situation, like the scenario you describe. I don't think it's appropriate for a happening (the bag gets caught as the doors close). Apr 10 at 18:45
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    @KateBunting I don't think we disagree on this. Was just adding an answer from an AmE perspective, and with an emphasis on had but not in its causal sense (had his shoes shined) but in its stative sense (had her door open).
    – TimR
    Apr 10 at 19:04
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    @Lambie I won't speak for how speakers of BrE perceive "get".
    – TimR
    Apr 11 at 10:36
  • 2
    as a brit I concur that this applies for BrE as well
    – Tristan
    Apr 11 at 13:06
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I would certainly use get [something] caught to describe an accidental occurrence; as Stuart says, have it caught sounds as though she deliberately caused it to become trapped.

However, I think have something caught is OK if it's the situation rather than the occurrence that is being described.

She couldn't walk away because she had her skirt caught on a nail in the fence.

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  • She had her brother caught by the coppers. But yours and Stuart's comments are misguided in that regard here. have or got + past participle is the same.
    – Lambie
    Apr 10 at 22:11
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    @Lambie - That sounds to me as though she arranged for her brother to be arrested - I don't know if that was the intended meaning. Apr 11 at 7:53
  • Yes, Kate, that is exactl;y right. So does: She got her husband arrested. There's no diffference is what I'm saying, in this sense of get/have something done to someone. She had him fired. She got him fired. Eh? She was the cause of it.
    – Lambie
    Apr 11 at 15:07
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    @Lambie: I believe you're the misguided one here, and I concur with Kate's distinction between occurrence (got her bag caught) and situation (had her bag caught).
    – TimR
    Apr 11 at 20:47
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    I think the distinction in meaning between those two cases is not in got vs. had but rather in subject-object agreement. "She got her bag caught" is assumed to be accidental because there's not usually any advantage in having one's own property caught in that manner, while "she got him caught" is implying a deliberate act affecting another person. Even "she got his bag caught" implies intention, because she was at least carrying or otherwise affecting someone else's bag rather than her own.
    – Miral
    Apr 12 at 6:38
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For the most part, the two forms mean the same thing, especially in the context given.

And they are both a bit ambiguous, too:

  • they could imply that the subject intended for her bag to become stuck, or not.
  • if intentional, "got" can convey either that the subject engaged a third party to achieve the result, or not. In this case, however, "had" conveys to me that the subject definitely did engage a third party. I would characterize this as a subtle difference.

Another small difference is that with slightly different wording, "had" can convey an observation of state ("When the detective arrived, he saw that Mrs. Smith had her bag caught between the doors" -- that is, the bag was in an ongoing state of being caught.) "Got" cannot be used this way by itself, though you might see "had got" for this purpose.


There are often clearer options available, but context is king. Consider these alternatives:

  • The train doors caught her bag as they closed.
  • She tried to hurry, but the train doors caught her bag [as they closed].
  • She sauntered off the train, timing her steps so that the train doors caught her bag [as they closed].
  • She let the train doors catch her bag.
  • She had her assistant shove her bag into the opening, and the train doors caught it as they closed.
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  • If you add "by her carelessness" to either the got or have version, that shows they mean the same thing, and the "deliberate" idea is quite odd because the odds of it being deliberate are extremely low. Also, there is a form which is get or have + noun + past participle...[by an agent mentioned or implied]
    – Lambie
    Apr 11 at 19:47
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Causative + got/have + past participle

**There is no usage difference between AmE and BrE for this grammar form: have or get [something] + past participle in the sample sentence.**They are two ways to say the same thing.

For me, in the example, they are the same thing...unless something in the context suggests otherwise.

  • She got her bag caught in the train doors as they were closing.
  • She had her bag caught in the train doors as they were closing.

However, "She had her hair done by her sister" is deliberate. Also, even when deliberate, it can be: get + past participle. "She got her hair done by her sister."

For example, also: I had my foot stuck in the door and couldn't pull it away. Can be said as: I got my foot stuck in the door and couldn't pull it away. Those are not deliberate. They'd would have happened accidentally.

got + past participle have+past participle

The two cannot always be used interchangeably. Sometimes, get+past participle just does not sound great.

For example:

  • She had the dinner catered by professional waiters. Would most likely not be said like this even though it could be:
  • She got the dinner catered by professional waiters.

get + something + past participle have + something + past participle are both passive and those uses are the same in AmE and BrE.

For example: She got her bag caught in the train doors as they were closing [by her own carelessness].

  • She had her bag caught in the train doors as they were closing [by her own carelessness].

The deliberateness of an utterance depends on context. Also, there are times that get+past participle is not great. But I don't see a clear way to demonstrate that. It's intuitive for me.

OKAY, so there is the grammar of this (negative experience): have is formal, get is informal:

We can also use have something done with a passive meaning when something bad happens to us.

He had his wallet stolen in Piccadilly. (=his wallet was stolen) They had their house destroyed by the fire.

Get something done In informal English, we can use get + object + past participle with the same meaning as have something done.

I need to get my eyes tested. They got their home rebuilt after the earthquake.
She got her legs burned in the fire. (negative experience)

Test English

get is more informal, have is more formal.

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