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I tried a new recipe for coming guests. After cooking I let my sister taste it. Can I also say, "I had my sister taste it"?

I don't know the difference of these two sentences in terms of meaning. Is there a big difference? Which sentence is more appropriate?

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In English, "have" is a very flexible word that can be used in a variety of contexts. I can have freckles on my face, I can have cake for dessert, and I can have a dead battery in my car. Furthermore, we can have parties, conversations, naps, arguments, elections, and children.

Getting back to your question, we can also have a taste of the soup.

There's only a small difference in meaning between "let my sister taste it," and "had my sister taste it," although "let" carries a connotation of allow or permit, while "had" might imply a little insistence on your part. In other words, had she asked for a taste, and you said yes, then "let" might be a better word to use. However, if you weren't sure the soup tasted satisfactory, so you wanted your sister to give a second opinion, then "had" might be a better word.

My sister thought the soup smelled delicious, so I let her taste it.

I thought the soup tasted funny, so I had my sister taste it.

Incidentally, yet another way to word this would be:

After cooking, I let my sister have a taste.

which combines both of those words, and would sound perfectly natural to a native speaker.

  • What's the difference between the first and last example? – Em1 Mar 22 '13 at 9:14
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    @Em1: Nice catch; I've reworded my examples. You bring up a good point, though. There's virtually no difference in meaning between using taste as a verb ("I tasted the icing") and using taste as a noun ("I had a taste of the icing") – the difference is merely syntactical. – J.R. Mar 22 '13 at 9:19
  • Now I'm getting to understand the difference between the use of " let " and " have ", which is always bothering me. – tennis girl Mar 22 '13 at 12:37
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The phrases are similar, but not the same. The distinction here can be important.

After cooking I let my sister taste it.

Implication: She wanted to taste it, you allowed her to.

After cooking I had my sister taste it.

Implication: You wanted her to taste it, e.g. to give you feedback on its quality, and she agreed to.

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As J.R. says, "have" is a verb with many meanings. But in this context, "to have someone do X", it means to encourage or require or request the person to do X. That is, the other person may or may not want to do this, but you are asking or forcing them to do it.

To "let someone do X" means that they want to do it, and you are giving permission.

So if your sister said, "Hey, that looks good. Can I try some?", you could "let" her taste it. But if you say, "I'm not sure if this came out right, and I don't want my guests to be disappointed", you could "have" her taste it. That is, in the first case, she wants to and you are permitting it. In the second case, you want her to and she is agreeing to.

Of course in a real-life case, it may be that you want her to taste it and she wants to taste it (or whatever the action under discussion is), and so either word is appropriate.

  • I got the clear idea about that, but also if I choose either one, it doesn't make much difference in meaning. Am I correct? – tennis girl Mar 23 '13 at 3:48
  • It's the difference between whether she wanted to taste and you permitted it or you wanted her to taste and she agreed to it. (Or you forced her to taste it somehow, rammed it down her throat or whatever.) – Jay Mar 25 '13 at 17:04

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