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I can't seem to find any definitive information on this topic, as most sources simply say "these are called causative verbs" and leave it at that. To my mind, they act like auxiliary verbs in sentences such as the following:

"She made him do it."

"We have our grass cut by a landscaping company."

"His parents never let him do anything fun."

In all of these cases, the causative verbs seem to act like auxiliary verbs, meaning they "help" inform the main verbs. Or are the causatives the main verbs in these cases? How would you cut up these sentences and classify their grammatical parts in general?

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    No, not auxiliaries. Yes, causative verbs are all lexical; they are the matrix (your 'main') verbs in your examples.The subordinate non-finite clauses "do it", "cut by a landscaping company " and "do anything fun" are all catenative complements of the catenative verbs "made", "have" and "let". That may explain your feeling that the latter act like auxiliaries.
    – BillJ
    Apr 25, 2022 at 18:27
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    Yes, and that's partly where new auxiliaries like wanna, gonna, oughta, useta, gotta, etc. come from -- reparsings of clauses as phrases and matrix verbs as auxiliaries. I wouldn't worry about what to call them, though -- the construction is thoroughly mixed and won't be the same in 20 or 30 years. Apr 25, 2022 at 18:49
  • Two slightly different responses, but I’m grateful for both. I can accept these causatives as catentative verbs which function in a similar way to “ask,” as in “She asked him to dance,” or “tell,” as in “He told me to stay calm.” If I am off the mark here, please let me know. Sub-question, but would “him” in “She had him wash the dishes” be considered the object in this sentence, or something else? And would the dishes be the direct object in this case? Precise terminology is important to my students and me, though I realize it will never be 100% consistent.
    – Alex
    Apr 25, 2022 at 19:56
  • @Alex In that sentence, "him" is the DO of "had" and "the dishes" is the DO of "wash". Some people also call "him" the subject of "wash". (I prefer to refer to emphasize their thematic relationship, with "him" as the agent.) Apr 25, 2022 at 20:36
  • @MarcInManhattan Could you also say that “She” is the agent of “had,” just as “him” is the agent of “wash”? (“He was directed by her.” “The dishes were washed by him.”)
    – Alex
    Apr 25, 2022 at 21:11

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As BillJ commented:

No, not auxiliaries. Yes, causative verbs are all lexical; they are the matrix (your 'main') verbs in your examples. The subordinate non-finite clauses "do it", "cut by a landscaping company " and "do anything fun" are all catenative complements of the catenative verbs "made", "have" and "let". That may explain your feeling that the latter act like auxiliaries.

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    Please note that H&P's CGEL treats auxiliaries as being subsumed under the category of 'catenative verbs'. So, the line @BillJ is trying to draw is at best hazy.
    – JK2
    May 14, 2023 at 0:09
  • Please give other people's (verbatim) responses as 'community wikis'; they'll still be open to voting scrutiny. May 14, 2023 at 12:59
  • @JK2 CUP have an article by Michel Launey which, if I interpret it correctly, attests that causative verbs are auxiliaries. May 14, 2023 at 13:06
  • @EdwinAshworth It's interesting that the author started out by saying outright "The causative construction in English involves an auxiliary verb of causation taking as its direct object the person being made to act plus an infinitive of that action".
    – JK2
    May 15, 2023 at 1:55

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