Here's a passage of Freud:

A lady reported that she very often dreamt when she was a child that God wore a paper cocked-hat on his head. What can you make of that without the dreamer’s help? It sounds completely nonsensical. But it ceases to be nonsense when we hear from the lady that she used to have a hat of that sort put on her head at meals when she was a child, because she could never resist taking furtive glances at her brothers’ and sisters’ plates to see whether they had been given larger helpings than she had. So the hat was intended to act like a pair of blinkers. This, incidentally, was a piece of historical information and was given without any difficulty. The interpretation of this element and at the same time of the whole short dream was easily made with the help of a further idea that occurred to the dreamer: ‘As I had heard that God was omniscient and saw everything’, she said, ‘the dream can only mean that I knew everything and saw everything, even though they tried to prevent me.’ Perhaps this example is too simple.

Then the French translation of the same passage:

Une dame raconte qu’étant enfant elle a souvent rêvé que le bon Dieu avait sur sa tête un bonnet en papier pointu. Comment comprendre ce rêve sans l’aide de la rêveuse ? Ne paraît-il pas tout à fait absurde ? Mais il le devient moins, lorsque nous entendons la dame nous raconter que lorsqu’elle était enfant, on la coiffait souvent d’un bonnet de ce genre parce qu’elle avait l’habitude, étant à table, de jeter des coups d’oeil furtifs dans les assiettes de ses frères et soeurs, afin de s’assurer s’ils n’étaient pas mieux servis qu’elle. Le bonnet était donc destiné à lui servir pour ainsi dire d’oeillères. Voilà un renseignement purement historique, fourni sans aucune difficulté. L’interprétation de cet élément et, par conséquent, du rêve tout entier réussit sans peine, grâce à une nouvelle trouvaille de la rêveuse. « Comme j’ai entendu dire que le bon Dieu sait tout et voit tout, mon rêve ne peut signifier qu’une chose, à savoir que, comme le bon Dieu, je sais et vois tout, alors même qu’on veut m’en empêcher. » Mais cet exemple est peut-être trop simple.

The German translation:

Eine Dame erzählt, sie habe als Kind sehr oft geträumt, der liebe Gott habe einen spitzen Papierhut auf dem Kopf. Wie wollen Sie das ohne die Hilfe der Träumerin verstehen? Es klingt ja ganz unsinnig. Es ist nicht mehr unsinnig, wenn uns die Dame berichtet, daß man ihr als Kind bei Tische einen solchen Hut aufzusetzen pflegte, weil sie es nicht unterlassen konnte, auf die Teller der Geschwister zu schielen, ob eines von ihnen mehr bekommen habe als sie. Der Hut sollte also wie ein Scheuleder wirken. Übrigens eine historische Auskunft und ohne jede Schwierigkeit gegeben. Die Deutung dieses Elements und damit des ganzen kurzen Traumes ergibt sich leicht mit Hilfe eines weiteren Einfalls der Träumerin. »Da ich gehört hatte, der liebe Gott sei allwissend und sehe alles«, sagt sie, »so kann der Traum nur bedeuten, daß ich alles weiß und alles sehe wie der liebe Gott, auch wenn man mich daran hindern will.« Dieses Beispiel ist vielleicht zu einfach.

The question is that what is the meaning of bold-face English sentence? As you see in the French it means they(on) put the so called hat on this lady's head. So how does used to have + p.p produces such a meaning? Could you please help me gramatically and semantically?


The construction HAVE + nominal + VERBen (that is, the past participle of VERB) has three distinct meanings, which can only be distinguished by the context. In all three nominal is an object of VERB, which must be transitive, and nominal must be in Object case if it has a distinct Object form.

  1. Cause nominal to be VERBen

    I had my car repaired = "I caused my car to be repaired"
    The king had him executed = "The king caused him to be executed"

  2. Possess or encounter nominal in a VERBen state

    We now have the report drafted = The report is now before us in a drafted state
    Once we had her satisfied we closed the complaint = Once we were assured that she was fully satisfied ...

  3. Undergo or suffer the eventuality of nominal being VERBen

    This winter I had my house wrecked by a careless driver = I experienced the wrecking of my house
    She had her husband taken from her by consumption = She suffered the loss of her husband

In your quotation, the sense is #3: She used to suffer [the indignity of] having a hat placed on her head.

  • Thank you, how do you add indignity to meaning?
    – nima
    Jul 4 '16 at 14:21
  • @nima Arbitrarily. Jul 4 '16 at 15:26
  • @StoneyB you mean it's upon your preference or it's something that can be directly inferred from the sentence itself?
    – nima
    Jul 4 '16 at 15:40
  • @nima I added it because it appears to be implied by what the child experienced and because it underscores the sense of something imposed. But it's not there in the original German, so I'll bracket it. Jul 4 '16 at 15:43

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