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Is this a valid usage of have?

"As I was waiting in line I was having a lady next to me disrespected very badly."

Does the example above make any sense? If so what exactly does it imply?

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  • Have someone / something done is common with many past participles in place of done : I'm having my hair done / I'm having the sofa re-upholstered / I'm having Malfoy sent home. But not all: * I'm having John insulted / hated / disrespected . It means 'I'm arranging for / I've arranged for [eg Malfoy to be sent home]', and doesn't really make sense with say hate, disrespect.... Feb 23, 2015 at 9:39
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    I'm afraid I'm not even clear what your sentence means. Do you mean that as you were waiting, that a lady next to you was disrespected very badly? If that is the case you should not use 'I was having', as it suggests you were organising the disrespect. I think you mean As I was waiting in line, a lady next to me was disrespected very badly.
    – WS2
    Feb 23, 2015 at 9:54

5 Answers 5

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The ordinary verb have can be an action verb with meanings such as 'experience' or 'receive'.

  • I'm having a holiday.
  • We had a sudden shock.

"As I was waiting in line I was having a lady next to me disrespected very badly."

  • This usage of "I was having" paints a picture that you either directly or indirectly set up the disrespect.
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If you were not doing the "disrespecting" (somebody else was), it seems that you "saw" or "observed" the lady being disrespected. You could say, for instance. "I was sorry to see the lady disrespected so badly."

As others pointed out, "having" her disrespected would imply that you arranged for her to be disrespected!

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That means you have caused her to be disrespected by arranging a negative response from other people in the queue such as telling them she jumped in the queue.

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The example makes sense, but it is rather odd sounding. It means that the lady's being disrespected affected you and was a bad experience for you. Other such "have" sentences are completely normal English. For instance,

"As I was waiting in line, I had a piece of the ceiling fall on my head."

It is certainly not a causative "have" construction. It's been called "adversative" or "experiential" have. Other examples are "I have a hole in my pocket", "He had a truck put a dent in his right front fender" (this is also interpretable as a causative).

The two oddities in your example that keep it from being fully grammatical standard English are (1) the "have" is in the progressive, (2) the subject of "have", "I", is referred to in the remainder of the construction after "have" only by "next to me", which doesn't make much of a connection between you and the lady's sad experience.

For (2), looking back at the previous example I gave, "I have a hole in my pocket", note the "my", referring back to me. The "my" could be suppressed, but it would still be understood. "I have a hole in Louise's pocket" is an entirely different construction.

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"As I was waiting in line I was having a lady next to me disrespected very badly."

The above is bad English and bad grammar.

Should be:

"As I was waiting in line, a lady disrespected me very badly."

or, if it was the lady who was disrespected:

"As I was waiting in line, I witnessed a lady being disrespected very badly."

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