English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I can understand the causative form (quite less frequently, we simply say causal verb) with make and get but when used with have/has, it sometimes makes me think differently. Of course, I can understand the construction like the following.

  • I had a barber cut my hair yesterday.

In its passive form, it can be written as

  • I had my hair cut yesterday (by a barber).

I can also understand that the preceding sentence (passive construction) cannot be rewritten as follows.

  • I had cut my hair yesterday.

If it's modified in this way then both the sentences have a significant difference in meaning that I can understand.

The thing I don't understand properly when a bare infinitive is replaced with an infinitive in such kind of constructions, such as.

  • He has his wife cook dinner for him.

What happens, if the bare infinitive i.e cook is replaced with an infinitive like the following.

  • He has his wife to cook dinner for him.

At a glance, you will be able to understand the difference between them but for me, it's not English but it's my native language in which as far as I know there is no difference between these two sentences and even the causative construction is simply made by just using some suffixes to the main verb in a sentence. So please take it easy. Could you please expose the important difference between these preceding two sentences?

share|improve this question
up vote 2 down vote accepted

He has his wife cook dinner for him means that he asks or orders his wife to cook his dinner.

He has his wife to cook dinner for him means something on the order of He doesn't need to hire a cook because he has a wife who will cook his dinner for him.

The first is causative, but the second is merely descriptive.

share|improve this answer
It means that the second example simply implies possession whereas the first one makes someone do something - the person wants something to be done for him. Am I wrong? – Tiny Oct 26 '12 at 5:23
In this case, no, you're not wrong. I'm not sure whether it implies possession (I assume that he doesn't possess (own) his wife the way he possesses (owns) his car), just that it's a grammatical possessive form. Sometimes it's necessary to be nit-picky about this kind of stuff. – user21497 Oct 26 '12 at 5:41
OK, I can understand. Thank you. – Tiny Oct 26 '12 at 5:45

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

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