What does "I must have you dance" mean? What kind of a sentence is it?

  • 2
    Could you provide some context? I can't make much sense of the sentence without it.
    – Brendon
    Dec 13, 2011 at 2:56
  • Yes. There are number of things it could mean, in different contexts. Sentences do not mean anything by themselves -- only in a real context. Dec 13, 2011 at 3:15
  • @Brendon: From Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: ‘Come, Darcy,’ said he, ‘I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance.’
    – Gigili
    Dec 13, 2011 at 10:37
  • @JohnMLawler: I added more context.
    – Gigili
    Dec 13, 2011 at 10:43

3 Answers 3


The only way I can make sense of that sentence is someone expressing his or her strong desire to induce the dancer to dance for him or her. Although not all may agree, I think of this sort of construction as a part of high-society small talk.

[polite conversation]
1: I quite enjoy the arts, don't you?
2: Yes, I certainly do. As a matter of fact, I'm a dancer.
1: Wonderful! I own a dance hall, I must have you dance sometime.

  • 1
    I agree. I have seen this used in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
    – gtl_pm
    Dec 13, 2011 at 3:35
  • Exactly, I read it in Pride and Prejudice.
    – Gigili
    Dec 13, 2011 at 10:36
  • Could you explain the structure, is the one you mentioned the same thing as what @Laure said?
    – Gigili
    Dec 13, 2011 at 10:52
  • Yes, this is the same thing laure said. The quote you mentioned above is essentially a polite way of saying, "I don't want to see you sitting alone, go out and dance with someone."
    – Kevin
    Dec 13, 2011 at 13:34

This is a pseudo-passive construction, I’ll have you know.

  • 1
    "Pseudo-passive"? How so? Looks pseudo-causitive to me.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 13, 2011 at 14:55
  • @ColinFine: Or possibly pseudo-caustic. Dec 13, 2011 at 14:58
  • despite my levity, that was a genuine request for explication. I can't see what's passive about the construction.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 13, 2011 at 15:01
  • Passive has not applied. Full parsing [square brackets mark clauses] (parens mark arguments) is something like [WILL (I, [HAVE (I, [DANCE (U)])])] Or, as we would say 200 years later, I want to see you dance. Dec 13, 2011 at 15:27
  • @ColinFine: You're quite right. I was just being a pseud. Dec 13, 2011 at 15:33

The question here is on the polysemy of the verb have.
Followed by object pronoun + past participle or bare infinitive have can mean make or oblige s.o. to.
It implies that the grammatical object (you in your example) is not entirely willing of the action expressed by the grammatical subject (I in your example).

"I'll have you do your homework, whether you like it or not." (says mum to son)

"I'll have you executed on the spot."

(King of Hearts to Mad Hatter)

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