This grammar guide will describe how to use the passive form “have something done” to describe something that someone does for you or to you and how to use “have” and “get” to ask or order someone to do something for you. The exercises for this topic are here. This lesson is part of a complete Upper Intermediate (B2) English Course.
Look at this example text.
I’m having the kitchen repainted at the moment.
If the decorator does a good job I’ll have him repaint the hall too.
It’ll cost a bit more, but I’ll have him give me a quote first.
This lesson will deal with the three forms used in this example.
First, let’s have a look at a way of saying that someone is doing something for you.
This is a form that is often used to say that someone or something does something for you or to you;
“I’m having my house painted”
“I need to get my eyes tested.”
These examples are from a way of speaking that emphasises the object of an action and what is done to the object, not who or what does it.
In the first example “I’m having my house painted”, we know that the speaker is not painting their house themselves. Someone else is doing it for them. The person that is doing it is not really important in this sentence.
In the second example “I need to get my eyes tested” means that that the speaker needs to go to a medical professional who can examine their eyes and test their sight. This usually happens at an optician, so it isn’t really worth mentioning who does it. In this example, you wouldn’t say that you are testing your eyes, because you don’t administer the test yourself, some else does it for you.
When we want to emphasize what was done to something and not especially who or what did it we can use the expression:
“To have something done.”
This expression is usually used when you are paying for some service or when someone is helping you, but it can also be used for undesirable things:
The boxing champion got his nose broken in the last fight.
I had my bicycle stolen last week.
This expression always takes this form:
|The verb “have”, conjugated as necessary.||The object, the thing that the action is done to.||The past participle of the verb that is done to the object.|
You can use “get” instead of “have”
This table shows examples in various times, present, past and future. This is not a complete list, but provides will give you an idea of how versatile this form is.
|Present Simple||I have||my hair||straightened.|
|Past Simple||I had||my photo||taken.|
|Present Perfect||I’ve had||bicycle||stolen!|
|Future Simple||We will have||the documents||translated.|
|Present Continuous||We’re having||our garden||cleaned.|
|Future Continuous||They’ll be having||their documents||sent in the post.|
You should only use this form when someone or something is doing something for or to you or something else.
In the first example here, the girl has painted her face herself so we cannot say that she has had her face painted.
However, in the second picture, the woman is painting the girl’s face, so we can say “she is having her face painted”.
Look at these examples of things that people have done.
And that’s everything for this expression. Do you understand how this topic works? Take this quiz to check word order with “have something done”. Otherwise, keep reading to find out about two related forms.
Let’s have a look at the first of these two similar forms.
This is a form which means to make, oblige, ask, or order someone to do something for you.
“I’ll have my assistant send you the details,”
The second of these forms is similar but has a different verb form after the passive part. This form uses a full infinitive verb with “to”.
This means to make, oblige, ask, persuade, convince or order someone to do something for you.
“I’ll get my mom to drive us to the shop.”
“Can you get Maria to call me please?”
|Get||Someone||To Do Something|
|The verb “get”, conjugated as necessary.||The person who does the activity.||The activity that “someone” does, in the infinitive (to) form|
Finally, If you think that you understand how to use these forms you can check your comprehension with these exercises that test different aspects of this topic.