I apologise if this is a simple question.

In the following sentence:

I can have your car towed away.

What type of phrase is the final part "towed away". If I'm right in saying, it is not functioning as an object?

I=subject can have= verb your car= object I'm puzzled as to what the remaining words are functioning as.


  • 1
    This is a causative idiom with have. The full idiom is P have X Passive VP, meaning "P cause Indef to VP X. So I can have your car towed away means 'I can cause Indef to tow away your car'. 'Indef` as subject is what makes Passive useful. Towed away is the remains of a passive clause, after its subject and complementizers have been burned off. It's certainly a phrase, and you could call it a clause if you were willing to supply the proper accoutrements. Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 22:03

2 Answers 2


With to have you can use the verb construction

1 to have someone do something


2 to have something done

In both constructions you have a two-part object after to have, an accusative and an infinitive/past participle. This two-part object corresponds logically to an independent sentence: The gardener cuts the hedge. Mr Brown is the cause for the action. (See example 1a.) In Latin such a construction was called accusative with infinitive (aci) and it was a very frequent construction and in English it is equally often used.

1a Mr Brown, the owner of the house, had the gardener cut the hedge.

Here Mr Brown orders the gardener to cut the hedge.

The normal verb construction is accusative (acc) + to-infinitive. Some frequently used verbs have acc + bare infinitive: to make/have/bid/let someone do sth and after verbs of perception as to see/watch/etc someone do sth

2a Mr Brown had the hedge cut ( by the gardener).

Of course, the passive variant is possible, too.

Two-part objects with acc and infinitive (with/without to) or gerund/participle or past participle are a chapter of its own in the grammar of verb constructions. In grammars this grammar chapter is often strewn across the whole grammar so that you seldom get a clear view of this type of verb constructions.


I agree that "have [your car] towed" indicates that the speaker causes the car to be towed (passive). The verb is not, however, "towed away." The word "away" is an adverb, indicating where the car would be towed: "to or at a distance from a particular place, person, or thing."[OED definition of "away"]

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