I got a haircut yesterday because my hair was too long. While I had been thinking to have a SailorMoon's iconic hairstyle, it reminded me of the question that I asked in an English class.

(Aside: I am doing a part-time intermediate level English course. You know, I was expecting a native speaker, but ironically, our school did not give us one. Our English teacher was a graduate from a top school in South Korea.)

During English class, I asked her, "Is cut a passive or an active verb in the sentence 'I have my hair cut'"?

She said that: "I have my hair cut" means "I have my hair to cut". But most people choose to omit the preposition to".

I asked her to confirm whether it means:

    1. "I have my hair to cut."


    1. "I have my hair to be cut."

She picked the former (#1), but I picked the latter (#2) in my mind. Since she was very confident, this really made me so confused.

As far as I understand, "I have my hair cut" means "A gentleman cut my hair for me". So, the word "cut" should be a passive verb in the sentence "I have my hair cut". That means, "I have my hair cut" is equivalent to "I have my hair to be cut" (#2).

I believe only one of us (either my English teacher or me) is correct, but which of us is?

1 Answer 1


You are right.

I had my hair cut = “I caused my hair to be cut”

In this causative construction cut is a past/passive participle and hair is its Patient, the entity acted upon. Compare the use of a verb whose past/passive participle is distinguishable from its infinitive:

I had my speech recordedPaPpl = “I caused my speech to be recorded”, not
I had my speech recordInf.

Note that if the HAVE NP VERB construction is employed with VERB in the infinitive, it does have an active sense; NP is taken to be the Agent of VERB, the entity which performs the action, and if VERB is transitive another NP acting as Patient/Direct Object is required:

I had MarioAgent bring.
okI had MarioAgent bring my notesPatient.

This may be ‘passivized’ by employing the participle:

I had my notes brought by Mario, which is the same construction as
I had my hair cut [by the stylist].

marks an utterance as ungrammatical

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