In causative constructions, for example:

I'll have him do it for me.

I'll get him to do it for me.

What is the difference in meaning between them? Obviously, there's a difference in register, with "have" being more formal than get, but I think there's a shade of difference in the actual meaning too. I'm just finding it hard to pin down.

I have some vague ideas, but I think it would be more productive to leave the conversation open rather than prime it with my own thoughts and end up narrowing the topic.

Feel free to use any example sentences comparing the two verbs, not necessarily the above.

  • 3
    "Have" gives one a very slight hint that this involves a simple request, while "get" suggests some modest persuasion may be required. But the difference is minimal -- as much a matter of "tone" and "stiffness", as "get" is a bit more colloquial.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 11:23
  • 1
    So if I could ask for more info, I'm wondering if anyone knows why have requires an infinitive without "to" but get requires the to on its following infinitive.
    – Claytonian
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 12:21
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    In causative (causative verb + person/thing + action verb); make (as in force), let (as in allow) and have (as above) take bare infinitives. All other verbs (e.g. ask, allow, force, require, etc. etc.) take the usual full infinitive. This isn't an answer "why" as such, but that's the way it works...
    – Some_Guy
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 13:38
  • Get has a special relationship with have, in virtually all of its uses. It's the causative/inchoative of both have and be. Given how many idiomatic constructions have appears in,, it's no wonder that get is a busy verb. Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 16:01
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    @Claytonian: like most "why" questions in language, the only answer is "because that's the way it is". Sorry.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Apr 17, 2016 at 21:43

2 Answers 2


There is a degree of force implied in causative verbs. I used to teach them as make, get, have, let, and help in descending degree of persuasion although other grammars teach them as verb patterns and include other verbs. Some only include make, get, and have. In other words, if I “make SB do STH”, I put a gun to their head. “Have SB do STH” and I probably paid them. “Get SB to do STH” usually means I used some polite persuasion.

  • This fits with my intuition. I would add that, to me, "getting" someone to do something implies that I have some sort of active involvement in the process of asking someone to do it. This is rather vague, but it feels more "hands on", in that I imagine I would be asking someone personally to do something. Having someone do something by contrast feels rather impersonal, almost as if they are doing so as part of their duties. I imagine someone with help in their house "has" the maid make dinner, whereas someone might "get" their brother to give you a lift from the airport. What do you think?
    – Some_Guy
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 11:51
  • @Some_Guy I'm thinking that this wasn't a very well developed answer: there are no links to any reference. You might want to look at John Lawlers's comment posted above and click on his link for a more fully-explained, Other than that, I would say "Go with your intuition"--it sounds right. Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 20:17

The 'have' means we instruct, request or compel someone to do the work, while 'get' means we convince or encourage someone to do the work. Also, 'have' is more formal than 'get'.

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