I do not understand the following:

Having had nobody stand up for me

Why it is not

Having had nobody to stand up for me


There is somebody to stand up for me.

4 Answers 4


The meaning of your statements is actually different:

Having had nobody stand up for me

This means that there was an incident, and no one came to my defense. (Even if they were present in the room.)

Having had nobody to stand up for me

This means there was an incident, but no one was there who could come to my defense. (Either because they weren't nearby, or because I don't have any friends.)

Adding the word to makes a difference in meaning here.

  • 2
    Well discerned!
    – Elijah
    Feb 24, 2014 at 7:24
  • @Elijah Thanks. Sorry, I wanted you to get the credit for this one, but it was too different from your answer for a comment.
    – David M
    Feb 24, 2014 at 7:26

The verb have can take an object with a bare infinitive (without to), just like some similar verbs:

I let her go.

I made her stay inside.

I had her bring me wine.

I had somebody stand up for me.

The last sentence would mean, "I made somebody stand up for me". The above construction (without to) is only possible where have means "make someone do something". However, in your example have does not seem to mean "make", but rather "possess". Of course it's not literally "possess" in the legal sense, but you know what I mean, as in I have someone to clean my house. With "possess", you need to, as you suggested:

I had nobody to stand up for me.

This means "I had nobody whose function it was to defend me".

I had nobody stand up for me.

This means "I made nobody rise from his seat for me". As you see, the two constructions lead to different senses of stand up for being construed.

One thing to note, however, is that the sense of "possess" often also creeps into the sense of "make", so that you can (less formally) also use "possess" without to:

I had my house cleaned. ("made")

I had my car wrecked. (borderline: "I made my car into a wreck", or "I possessed a car that was wrecked")

?This was really cool, I had someone stand up for me at the church when I criticised religion, can you believe it?

Here it means "defend", where the construction is like "make someone do something", but the sense is borderline between that and "I possessed someone who did something". This usage is informal, but it is probably what your example is about. But we can't be sure without context.

If that is how we interpret it, then what is the difference in meaning if you add to? With to, it describes the function of a person: the person to stand up for me is someone who is supposed to stand up for me, or who normally stands up for me. Without to, it just describes a single event where someone did or did not stand up for me.


Your impression that it is missing something is correct. It might be missing 'to' as you suggest. Another possibility is that he meant "having had nobody WHO STOOD up for me." Either way, it's written in the voice of a person using what is called 'poetic license.' The author uses particular ways of speaking to help build the personality of the character.

  • I don't know that it's poetic license. But, I agree with the rest of it.
    – David M
    Feb 24, 2014 at 7:06
  • Fair enough, David M. What would you call it? Writerliness?
    – Elijah
    Feb 24, 2014 at 7:13
  • 1
    I would just call it ... style? I'm not sure. I don't think there is anything incorrect about the way it is stated. It means essentially the same as Having had nobody who stood up for me.
    – David M
    Feb 24, 2014 at 7:16
  • I reread your answer. It didn't quite fit, so I added my own. Didn't want to step on your toes.
    – David M
    Feb 24, 2014 at 7:21

Concisely, the first one says I found myself in a situation where nobody stood up for me, whereas the second says I found myself in a situation wherein I had nobody [in order that they would stand up for me.]

The first phrase

Having had nobody stand up for me

Describes a situation which had occurred, wherein nobody stood up for you. E.g., having had nobody stand up for me, I found myself in an awkward situation. It also carries with it an implication, or expectation that someone should have come to your assistance.

The speaker is retelling a story where something happened, and after that event, nobody came forward to their aid.

Your rendition,

Having had nobody to stand up for me

Describes a condition wherein the speaker may have known, prior to the event occurring (wherein the speaker would need defense), that they would not have anyone to stand up for them. For example, in this situation we could say having had nobody to stand up for me, I thought it was wiser not to attend.

In this case, the phrase describes a set of circumstances independent of the event having already occurred wherein the speaker needed someone to stand up, but didn't have that person available.

The distinction comes from the fact that the first phrase has the verb to stand conjugated for the third person. The second phrase employs the infinitive in the construction to have someone to do something.

If you still don't understand, consider the phrase with different verbs in place of to stand and maybe it will become clear.

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