Have someone do something usually means asking a subordinate or a qualified worker etc to do something. But I keep coming across this construction, only with what seems to be a different meaning. I'd love it if somebody could shed some light on it, or refer me to a source where I can find out more about it.

I notice, sometimes it involves an -ing verb, as opposed to a bare infinitive, but a common thread in all the cases is that the individual it refers to is an "experiencer", on the receiving end of some sort of action (or reaction, as they might also be the cause of it too, as seen below in the rat example)

A few examples:

  1. "Oh, I'm sorry- you stand here and have that damn thing pop out at you and you not jump! And it was a rat, not a mouse."
  2. "I'm not going to have anybody laugh at you, don't worry."
  3. "You can make a movie out of it today, and have it be extremely popular"
  4. "... may have you scratching your head as to what to do next"
  5. " This has had me wondering: How are..."
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of Grammatical construction of "to have happen". Your fifth example (and arguably your fourth) is causative. The others here are paraphrasable as 'experience' or 'allow' (with suitable constructions). Apr 20, 2018 at 13:13
  • HAVE-SOMEONE/SOMETHING-DO? I have never been able to relate it grammatically. I have used, Have it retyped; have them received, and accommodated; have this envelope posted, etc. But, 'Have them receive, have her work, have it post? Shall appreciate someone's help...
    – Ram Pillai
    Feb 4, 2020 at 10:46
  • youtu.be/syBRZGU95aA
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 2, 2020 at 21:15
  • @EdwinAshworth, the link you mentioned in the comment talks about something different; it doesn't answer the OP's question.
    – Ram Pillai
    Jan 29, 2021 at 10:40
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth; I think I have got the required clarification. JamesM's answer is a mess, but the first links speaks clearly. :) It goes like, a) I had him wash the car (= I had him washing the car); I had the car washed; I got it washed; I got someone 'to' wash it (with a slightly different meaning); I made someone wash the car. I asked this clarification because I used to be quite comfortable (still I am), with the usages, I had the car washed/ I got it washed. I appreciate your clarification.
    – Ram Pillai
    Jan 29, 2021 at 23:28

2 Answers 2


The OED has a lot of senses of "have", and you can debate which is most relevant, but there are clearly some that relate closely to the examples. It can mean to cause something to happen, or to allow something to happen, or to endure or experience something.

There is the causative sense in the OED "V. To cause to come or become, and related senses." "28. transitive. With complement expressing an action or state caused by the subject." e.g. (under 28 a) "Mr. Low..arranged to have the rental reappraised every twenty-five years." Examples 4 and 5 are causative.

There is another related sense, which relates less to a direct cause than a factor involved in the action taking place: "29. transitive. With complement expressing an action experienced or undergone by the subject." The OED suggests this is "a weakening of sense 28a, with a semantic shift from the sense of causing an action, to allowing it to happen (to one), to enduring or experiencing it".

Specifically:"29 c. With bare infinitive (formerly also †to-infinitive) or present participle as complement. To experience, endure, or suffer (a person or animal) doing something." Examples include Goldsmith: "We often had the traveller or stranger visit us to taste our gooseberry wine." Or the more modern usage "We can't have him just riding away free in a van." (2013) This matches example 1. "you stand here and have that damn thing pop out at you and you not jump" and arguably "have it be extremely popular" (if it is taken as something you experience rather than actively work towards).

There is a negative sense "29 a. In negative construction, chiefly with will not or would not: not to allow or tolerate." Example: "I won't have your father drinking from his saucer like he does, do you hear me?" This is the same as example 2: "I'm not going to have anybody laugh at you, don't worry." (Here "I'm not going" substitutes for "I will not".)

Ref: "have, v." OED Online, Oxford University Press, December 2021, www.oed.com/view/Entry/84705. Accessed 24 January 2022.

  • Your answer made this reappear, so I re-examined; I'd just written my latest comment and was about to downvote this as a response to a duplicate, without reading, when I realised that I'd identified the 3 senses you do, including one not addressed in the original. Nice to see OED agrees! OP gets it wrong here with a different meaning. Jan 24, 2022 at 11:30

The word "have" is a very permissive verb. I think you hit on the answer exactly. The sense of the word "have" in your examples refers to "having the experience of", whereas your original position means to "possess" something.


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