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"The ample supplies have the government urging vaccinations not just for people at highest risk of dying from influenza, but for anyone who wants to avoid a week of aching misery."

Original Posts

Is "have the government urging" a causative structures like "I had John fix the car"?

If so, why we use 'urging' here instead of 'urge' in bare infinitive form?

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    Have is one of the many auxiliaries used in English constructions that can have causative meanings. That doesn't make it a "causative structure"; that's not a technical term in English grammar, only in linguistics, because there are languages (not English) that do have causative structures. Commented May 29, 2023 at 15:46
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    @JohnLawler Why do you say have is an auxiliary?
    – JK2
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 4:19
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    Causative "have" licenses both infinitival and gerund-participial complements. Context will determine which one is preferable. In both cases, the intervening NP is a raised object.
    – BillJ
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 14:12
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    But in the 'undergo' sense "He had the police call round in the middle of the night" indicates that the visit was something that happened to him rather than something he arranged.
    – BillJ
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 17:20
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    They're different constructions, not different verbs. Have happens to be the auxiliary used in the constructions, that's all. Like do-support is different from emphatic do; different construction, different affordances, same auxiliary. Commented May 30, 2023 at 17:31

4 Answers 4

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Causation is a semantic relationship between the agent / force / causer and the process / programme / change. One of the roles of 'have' in the string 'have someone verb [T or I]' certainly exemplifies this relation.

The 'degree of sufficiency' (level of causality) can vary:

  • The severity of the eruption had people fleeing for their lives. [sufficient cause / force]
  • The Roman legionnaires had people carry their gear. [few argued]
  • I had John fix my car. [agreed terms, no doubt, but an element of obligation]
  • The acrobatic display had us sitting on the edge of our seat. [perhaps hyperbole, but moderate compulsion]
  • We had Jill stay while Jack was on duty in Antarctica. [perhaps strong persuasion involved]. Compare The Roman legionnaires had people carrying their gear, which meant that they would not be too tired to erect a palisade later that day.

I'd say that the 'imposition of will' factor informs (perhaps not dictates) the choice of the base form of the verb. ??The severity of the eruption had people flee for their lives sounds unnatural, though the punctiveness/durativeness is arguably little different from I had John fix my car.

In fact, I had John fixing my car only sounds natural in arguably non-causative strings like: 'I/We had John fixing the car at the time, and Bill weeding in the front garden ... surely they would have seen any high-speed chase.'

  • *The ample supplies have the government urge vaccinations not just for people at highest risk of dying from influenza

thus implies volitional agency on behalf of the aforementioned ample supplies, which is unacceptable.

Incidentally, the 'level of causality' is moderate to high; copious supplies will not be the only factor informing government policy.

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    I find your point involving ??The severity of the eruption had people flee for their lives quite interesting. Consider something like When I was badly affected by back pain yesterday I had my neighbour go / going down the paper shop for me. Where both seem possible - and in the go version, that "outcome, result" is what I caused to happen, but in the going version it's more like what my bad back caused to happen. Commented May 30, 2023 at 18:10
  • 'I had John fix ...' corresponds nicely to 'I got John to fix ...'. I'd say 'I had John fixing my car ...' is possible (it seems it's only the natural cause + had + bare infinitive that's the barred pairing) but corresponds more to 'I managed to get John to ...'. Commented May 30, 2023 at 18:19
  • @EdwinAshworth I have no idea what you're trying to argue here, but you should look at my answer because I think it's the correct one. You seem to be trying to argue there's a fuzzy and quantitative distinction, but it's actually a qualitative one.
    – user84614
    Commented Jun 3, 2023 at 4:15
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Both "I had John fix the car" and "The ample supplies have the government urging vaccinations..." contain causative structures. This answers your first question. But there are two distinctions between the structures that can be made which may be of interest.

Firstly, in the car example, both the "prime mover∗" (I) and the "other party∗" (John) are humans. On the other hand, in the vaccination example the prime mover (ample supplies) is not a human.

Secondly, in the car example the prime mover (I) intends, requires or arranges for the other party (John) to carry out some action. In the vaccination example, no intention can be ascribed to the prime mover (ample supplies).

Here are more examples where the prime mover is not a human and no intention can be assumed. It is simply the existence of the prime mover that causes or results in the other party's actions.

  • The loud noise from the disco has nearby residents complaining to the police every evening.
  • The breaking news had people turning on their TVs.
  • The predicted riots have shopkeepers boarding up their storefronts.
  • The decision to award a penalty had the crowd roaring with anger.
  • The prolonged heatwave has city dwellers queueing up to buy air conditioners.
  • The latest episode of The Office had me laughing out loud.

A previous answer here notes that the -ing form (urging) is used in the OP's example sentence (and presumably in the sentences above) to "describe an ongoing situation". This is a plausible and probably sufficient answer to your second question.


Prime mover and other party are the terms used in the The Cambridge Dictionary of English Grammar's entry on causative verbs (p60).

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In context, "The ample supplies" is a reason that the government is urging vaccinations. So, yes, you can say that the verb 'have' has a causative meaning.

Now, the writer uses the form 'urging' to describe an ongoing situation instead of the whole situation. The text means "Thanks to the ample supplies, the government is urging vaccinations...", not "Thanks to the ample supplies, the government urges vaccinations...", which would have been expressed with the bare infinitive urge as in:

The ample supplies have the government urge vaccinations...

Regardless of which form you use after the government, it's the context that determines whether the verb have conveys a causative meaning.

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It's without the -ing if it's an order to do something.

It's with the -ing if they're deciding to do it

Essentially it's the difference between whether first noun is passive and the second is active, in which case it's ing, or whether the first noun is active and the second is passive, in which case it's not ing (using first noun and second noun because I don't know grammatical terms)

"I had John fix the car" means you had John fix the car through your direction.

"I had John fixing the car" means the fact of your presence had John freely choosing to fix the car. "I had John fixing the car in no time" means your presence enabled him fixing the car to be the case, whereas "I had John fix the car in no time" means you ordered him to fix the car quickly rather than slowly. (Technically, because the idiom doesn't transfer, so quickly it defies the laws of physics.)

"The ample supplies had the government urging vaccinations" means the ample supplies had the government choosing independently to urge vaccinations.

"The ample supplies had the government urge vaccinations" means, the ample supplies had the government urge vaccinations rather than look for more vaccinations because, as the directors of societal welfare, they decided there were enough vaccinations to go around.

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    They are going to have a needlessly painful death from illnesses that shut down people's bodily functions and have them dying in agony. / The loss of Voynov and Quick's less than stellar play has them falling from grace. Doesn't seem like much of a choice here.
    – DW256
    Commented Jun 3, 2023 at 7:56

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