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Earlier today, I read an answer by jonlink which used the zero plural aspirin. I wasn't sure whether that was correct, so I had to check a dictionary. I found that both aspirin and aspirins are okay as plural forms.

If I wanted to express this in a comment, which sentence would I use?

 1. You made me check the dictionary.
 2. You had me check the dictionary.

I think these first two sentences sound natural. I'm not sure about using the pronoun you, though; it might sound rude.

 3. You got me check the dictionary.

This last one doesn't sound right. Is there a problem with using got this way?

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    (Note: I'm writing this question from learner's point of view, because I want to turn our comment discussion into a question and answer.) – snailcar Oct 20 '14 at 23:39
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    The last sentence would be more idiomatic if it used the infinitive: "You got me to check the dictionary". – Dan Bron Oct 20 '14 at 23:43
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    You inspired me to check a dictionary :^) The verb prompted might work, too. – J.R. Oct 20 '14 at 23:58
  • Thank you very much snailboat. This is even much better. Thanks J.R., and actually prompt is way better than inspired. Inspired seems too big for the job. – learner Oct 21 '14 at 7:37
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In this context, I would say all three sound unnatural - the answer didn't make you check the dictionary, it prompted you to.

Made would only be used if you're either joking (where the person clearly didn't force you to do anything) or where you've actually been forced to do something. Your example could fall into the former, but the setting isn't quite casual enough to and could potentially be seen as a criticism.

(Note that the above isn't a reflection on the StackExchange user mentioned in the initial post, or StackExchange in general, just that suggesting someone forced you to undertake an act should be done with care)

  • Thank you Jon. I believe "prompt" is the perfect fit. As for "made me" seeing other native speaker's answers I would not mind using it with a proper context. I have just confirmed my suspicion that it could be taken as a criticism which was my concern. – learner Oct 21 '14 at 7:46
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Make-, have-, and let-causatives use bare infinitives:

You made me check a dictionary.
You had me check a dictionary.
You let me check a dictionary.

But get-causatives are different. They use to-infinitives:

You got me to check a dictionary.

So there is indeed a problem with example 3; it is missing the infinitive marker to.


Semantically speaking, had-, let-, and got-causatives aren't really appropriate in your original context:

  • Let is a permissive causative, but jonlink was not giving you permission to do something.
  • Had is a directive causative, but jonlink was not directing you to do something.
  • Got is an indirect causative, but jonlink was not persuading, inducing, or manipulating you into doing something.
  • Make is a coercive causative, and jonlink's answer created a state of affairs that forced you to do something (check a dictionary).

The make-causative is the most appropriate choice in this case. You had to check a dictionary in order to respond to what he wrote, so the make-causative is the one that fits most closely―although the type of coercion involved is rather weak.

Although this is called a coercive causative, when the coercion is particularly strong, there is a tendency to use force instead ("He forced me to hand over my valuables at gunpoint"), which uses a to-infinitive.


I don't personally think using the pronoun you sounds rude, but if you wanted to avoid it anyway, you could do so by avoiding causatives altogether:

I wasn't sure what the plural of aspirin was, so I had to check a dictionary.

Phrasing it this way focuses on you, the speaker, and avoids mentioning the other person at all, so it avoids any possible offense.

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    +1 Also: Your answer led me to check a dictionary And in the vernacular: {You/your answer} {got me (to)/had me} checking a dictionary are effective but minimally agentive. – StoneyB Oct 20 '14 at 23:47
  • Prompted me, led me and made me. This was a great lesson. Thank you all. – learner Oct 21 '14 at 7:49

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