The Passive Causative

The students had the grammar explained to them by their teacher…

Do your students understand the passive voice? Sure. Have they mastered causative verbs? Yep. But do they realize that causative verbs can be passive too? What?

Don’t let the passive causative cause your students any angst. Try presenting it using the method below, and wait for that Aha moment!

What is the passive causative?

Causative verbs (have, let, make) are used when one person is causing another to do something. The passive is used when the focus is on the thing instead of the person. When you combine them together, you are essentially saying someone caused something to be done (by someone).

Why “get”?

Since the causative verbs are have, let, and make, students might be wondering why the passive causative is formed with have or get. Get is possible for two reasons:

  1. Get is the casual passive form. Instead of the problem was solved, you can say the problem got solved.
  2. Get also has a causative meaning. You can say I got someone to do something, with the meaning of cause or force. However, because it’s not a true causative verb, the base verb is not used, and an infinitive verb is used instead (which is the normal case for a second verb in a sentence after an object). See our Causative Verbs post for more information.

One more example…

I got my hair cut is probably one of the most commonly used passive causative sentences around. But because cut is an irregular verb that has the same form for the past participle as it does for the base verb, it’s a good idea to give students another example with a verb that changes forms. Try showing them these sentences:

Causative: The manager had the assistant write the report.
Passive: The report was/got written (by the assistant).
Passive Causative: The manager had/got the report written (by the assistant).

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