As a native Portuguese speaker, it's kind of hard for me to really understand what the structure "to have someone do something" means. For example in the following sentence:

I had him pick me up at school yesterday.

Would that be different from "He picked me up at school yesterday"? What is the difference?

Or for example: I'll have someone fix my car tomorrow.

Am I saying I'll pay someone to do that or I'm just saying someone is coming to do the job regardless of payment?

  • Often for these cases, have works like fazer works in Portuguese; so for example in the first sentence, it would be fiz because you "made" him do something. For the second, you can also use something more like "tell" (dizer) or "direct" (mandar) them to do something.
    – tchrist
    May 13, 2017 at 2:12
  • So, from what I've understood, the structure has a bossy tone in a way. Am I correct? It feels like an order.
    – user27026
    May 13, 2017 at 2:18
  • 3
    The use of "have" implies that the other's action is a result of your suggestion, request, or order.
    – Hot Licks
    May 13, 2017 at 2:18
  • No, it's not especially bossy, like "force" would be. It's more like "I arranged for him to pick me up" (arranjar). It's a neutral use.
    – tchrist
    May 13, 2017 at 2:22
  • Ah, got it. It makes sense now. It seems like you speak Portuguese, so would that be like "Eu combinei com ele pra me buscar na escola ontem." or more like "Eu mandei ele me buscar na escola ontem"?
    – user27026
    May 13, 2017 at 2:24

2 Answers 2


NP₁ have NP₂ Infinitive VP is a causative construction.
(Note there is no to on the infinitive in this construction)

This construction means that NP₁ causes NP₂ to do whatever the infinitive Verb Phrase is.
So if the sentence is

  • I had him pick me up at school today.

the meaning is that I arranged for him to pick me up at school today in some (unspecified) way.
And if it's

  • I'll have someone fix my car tomorrow.

the speaker is committing to arranging for someone to fix their car.

Tomorrow can modify either will have (tomorrow is the day to arrange it), or it can
modify fix (tomorrow is the day to fix the car). This is what's called an "attachment ambiguity".


This structure is used to highight who did the action rather than the action itself.

Example: my car broke down - I couldn't repair it - I needed a mechanic to repair it - I had to have a mechanic repair my car

Example: I always pick up my son from school - yesterday I got stuck in a traffic jam - I called my friend to pick him up for me - I had to have my friend pick up my son from school

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