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Why do 'get' and 'have' work similarly in

I got/had my car repaired.

but differently – that is are not complemented in the same way although they still mean the same – in

I got someone to repair my car.

and

I had someone repair my car.

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  • What "difference" do you mean? You need to elaborate on that.
    – Kris
    Jan 15, 2014 at 13:48
  • And realise that 'I had someone to repair my car' is not unknown, though probably colloquial (not slang). 'I had a man to repair my car' [US] occurs on Google as does 'I had a man in to mend the flush on my loo' [doubtless UK]. 'I had a man to help me' is obviously correct. These use the prepositional incarnation of 'to'. Jan 15, 2014 at 14:04
  • @EdwinAshworth: I would say 'I had a man to repair my car.' is a simplified 'I had (to find) a man to repair my car.', and 'I had a man in to mend the flush on my loo.', a simplified 'I had a man (come to my house = in) to mend the flush on my loo.', with 2 infinitives of purpose!
    – user58319
    Jan 15, 2014 at 14:04
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    The short answer is that they're different idiomatic constructions, and therefore have different rules. Get and have are both auxiliary verbs, and participate in hundreds of idioms. This is several of them, all mushed together. No wonder they don't make any sense. There's a discussion of the subject here. Jan 15, 2014 at 15:13
  • But without evidence, this remains conjecture rather than acceptable analysis. Further to John's answer, I'd say that unmushing idioms can be extremely tricky. Jan 15, 2014 at 15:13

2 Answers 2

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The verbs 'get' and 'have' are not completed in the same way, whether in an active sentence or in a passive one: it only looks as if they work the same way in a passive phrase like 'get/have something done', only looks.

Get:

  • I got someone to repair my car. (active phrase)
  • *I got my car to be repaired by someone. (passive phrase)
  • I got my car repaired. (simplified passive phrase, 'to be' dropped)

Have:

  • I had someone repair my car. (active phrase)
  • *I had my car be repaired by someone. (passive phrase)
  • I had my car repaired. (simplified passive phrase, 'be' dropped)

So it is only the simplified sentences which give the – mistaken – impression that 'get' and 'have' work the same way. Of course, the middle sentence in each case, even if it can be re-constructed, is not used.

Simplifications 'complicate' the task of learners of English, because they make it look as if something one has just learnt does not apply – here, 'get sb to do sth' but 'have sb do sth'- as if English were an endless list of exceptions rather than a language obeying a large but limited set of rules one can hope to learn!

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  • Are you claiming that 'rules' should refer to the unellipted structures only? Do we need to master all the 'rules of ellipsis' as well now? Jan 15, 2014 at 14:00
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    Do you have a reference? I thought the "hidden passive" only applied to structures like, "That car needs (to be) washed." If my son said to me, "I had my bike be repaired," I wouldn't hesitate to correct him.
    – Gob Ties
    Jan 15, 2014 at 14:12
  • @EdwinAshworth: I just mean that discussing ellipted structures is not very sensible! And as to the 'rules of ellipsis', they are typically things that you will gather 'naturally' when you are staying in the countries where the language is spoken. There is no point really in teaching ellipted forms… I dare anyone who was taught "ch'ais pas" (what any speaker of French will say) to find on his own that it is an adulteration of "je ne sais pas", whereas the person taught "je ne sais pas" won't be long to get that nearly everyone contracts it to "ch'ais pas"…
    – user58319
    Jan 15, 2014 at 14:14
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    *I got my car to be repaired by someone and *I had my car be repaired by someone -- the intermediate products of passivizing the infinitive in this derivation -- are both ungrammatical for me. The constructions require no to and no be; and theyr'e not this simple, either. (For one thing, hearing either of these sentences makes it sound like you succeeded in persuading your car to get repaired, which is a different get construction.) Jan 15, 2014 at 15:09
  • @John Lawler Shades of John Cleese. Jan 15, 2014 at 15:18
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In the second case, the verbs are being used as causative verbs. Normally, causative verbs are followed by the infinitive, but there are 3 exceptions: have, make, and let.

In the first case, the verbs are not causative -- instead, they are being used as normal transitive verbs, with the object being the phrase "my car repaired", which serves as a reduced version of the noun phrase "repairs, which were performed on my car".

Another interesting point is that the verbs are more functionally similar in the second case than in the first. In the first case, the meaning of "got" has some overlap with that of "received". So we can say "I got a message", but we cannot say *"I had a message".

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