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?


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

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.