Have Something Done (Causative Have & Get)

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.

First, let’s have a look at a way of saying that someone is doing something for you.

Have Something Done

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.”

A woman wearing  a device to test her eyes to illustrate the expression "have / get something done" as "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.

How to Form “Have Something Done”

This expression always takes this form:

HaveSomethingDone
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”

GetSomethingDone

This table shows examples in various times, present, past and future.

TenseHaveSomethingDone
Present SimpleI havemy hairstraightened.
Past SimpleI hadmy phototaken.
Present PerfectI’ve hadbicyclestolen!
Present ContinuousWe’re havingour gardencleaned.
Future ContinuousThey’ll be having their documents sent in the post.

Examples of “to have something done” and when to use it

You should only use this form when someone or something is doing something for or to you or something else.

A girl holding a paintbrush has paint on her face. It appears that she has painted her face herself. This is to illustrate that it isn't appropriate to use the expression "have something done".
She has painted her face.
A woman is painting a girl's face with a Mexican Day of the dead pattern. This is to illustrate appropriate use of the expression "to have something done".
The girl is having her face painted.

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.

Have Someone Do Something

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,”

HaveSomeoneDo Something

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”.

Get Someone to Do Something

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?”

GetSomeoneTo Do Something
The verb “get”, conjugated as necessary.The person who does the activity.The activity that “someone” does, in the infinitive (to) form

Exercises

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.