Reading about the movie character, Dexter, a fan was wondering about how the series will end:

Why can't they have him get caught or killed?

It got me thinking..it is "have sb do smth" used here? I somehow cannot understand the usage of "get" which I can (from context) see references to passive.

1 Answer 1


I will have him killed.

Would mean that I will arrange for someone to be killed.

He will get killed.

Would mean that some circumstances would lead to someone's death.

Now, in terms of how we would talk about the real world, "I will have him get killed" would be strange and unwieldly - just about justifiable, but pretty bad phrasing.

In talking about producers of fiction (specifically, the writers of Dexter in this case), there is a remove between the effect of characters upon characters - such as say a policeman character who kills Dexter - and the writers who have control over the circumstances Dexter encounters in a way that no one does over anyone in reality. As such:

I will have him get killed.

Makes perfect sense in reference to a fiction, and means I will write the story in such a way that he gets killed.

The meaning of the quoted question

Why can't they have him get caught or killed?

Follows from that, why can't the people who produce the show write the story in such a way that he gets caught or killed?

  • Thank you. Just to be sure, what form is that -"have sb do sth"? Or "have sb done"?
    – John V
    Sep 17, 2013 at 11:29
  • Neither. It's "have [circumstance happen]", where the circumsance is "he gets caught or killed". It's close to "have somebody do something" but with the second part of that in the passive.
    – Jon Hanna
    Sep 17, 2013 at 11:35
  • Thanks, if you could give me a reference for this usage (Oxford dictionary would be the best) I will be so grateful! I have never heard about such an usage of "have".
    – John V
    Sep 17, 2013 at 11:39
  • Have here is being used in the sense "cause to be in a particular state or condition" as at oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/have the unusual construction relates to the unusual degree of control a fiction writer has over fictional characters, we would normally say "I will have him killed" because if we are in a position to arrange a killing we do so through the murderer not through setting up a whole series of circumstances like writers do for characters.
    – Jon Hanna
    Sep 17, 2013 at 11:47
  • @JonHanna: There is a difference between have a fictional character get killed and have somebody (fictional or otherwise) killed, but I think it isn't that we do the second more often than the first. That certainly does not apply to me, though your experience may differ. Sep 17, 2013 at 12:19

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