History, as recounted by the victors, had the capitalists winning.

I think that the above sentence means that history caused the capitalists to win. Can I say

History, as recounted by the victors, had the capitalists win?

What is the difference between the structure have somebody doing something and have somebody do something?

  • 1
    Your interpretation of the original sentence is incorrect. It means that the victors reported that the capitalists won, no cause is implied.
    – Barmar
    Nov 14, 2014 at 16:38
  • The gerund winning is used to turn win from a verb to a noun, so that it can be something that can be had. In this case, had means contained or included.
    – Barmar
    Nov 14, 2014 at 16:40
  • 4
    Somebody might have written a book that had the communists win. It's largely a stylistic choice which verb form to use, though the exact context will affect that choice. The -ing form has a greater sense of "immediacy" and relevance to the time of utterance. Nov 14, 2014 at 17:21

2 Answers 2


To have somebody do something most commonly means to cause somebody to do something (eg, ask, force, pay). But in this sentence the verb had means something like believed, perceived, recorded, claimed, or stated.

The clerk said the robber was tall and blond, but another witness had the robber as being of average height with red hair.

The history that the victors created claimed that the capitalists were the winners. More simply: The victors claimed that the capitalists were the winners. The rhetorical style suggests that the writer may be expressing disagreement with or doubt about that claim.

There are many reasons for chosing an -ing form over another type of word, sometimes more than one reason in a particular instance. Here, the primary purpose was to avoid the phrase to have somebody win, which suggests that have means cause. We would need more context to figure out if the -ing form is also related to a time aspect. I would guess not, as it probably functions here as a verbal noun instead of a present participle.


Verb - clean

I have somebody cleaning the floor. (Someone is cleaning it right now.)

I will have somebody clean the floor. (Someone will clean it in the undetermined near future.)

I am having someone clean the floor. (Someone will clean the floor in the determined near future.)

I have somebody clean the floor. (Someone cleans the floor regularly for me.)

I have somebody doing the cleaning. (Someone is cleaning, but more than just a relatively quick job.)

I have somebody doing the cleaning of the floor. (Correct in formart, a bit quirky in style, and essentially means the same as the first example.)

Note: The last example would probably be used more with the word 'already' to emphasize that there is a whole complete task organized.

I already have somebody doing the cleaning of the floor.

  • 1
    I have somebody clean the floor is not incorrect; it can be something that happens on a regular basis.
    – tunny
    Nov 14, 2014 at 18:44
  • Not responsive to the OP's issue. The problem stems principally from assuming the incorrect definition of "have". Nov 14, 2014 at 19:20
  • @tunny, thanks for catching that. i'll edit that. (at)jim, i see the question "What is the difference between structure.... " I just added extra alternatives.
    – David
    Nov 14, 2014 at 20:02
  • @tunny - i am starting to second guess that. it doesn't sound natural to me. What would be more natural is "I have somebody to clean the floor."
    – David
    Nov 14, 2014 at 20:15
  • What about "I had somebody clean the floor"? For something done in the past.
    – Hadij
    May 23, 2020 at 17:36

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