Saturday, June 4, 2011

Have/get something done

The structure we are going to have a look at today is quite difficult to understand for Spanish speakers, because it doesn't exist in this language. A typical mistake my students make is to say “I will cut my hair tomorrow”, when they really mean that they are going to tell the hairdresser to cut their hair. They don't realize that for an English speaker that sentence means that that person is cutting his/her own hair himself /herself. In English, if you want to say that somebody will cut your hair for you, you can say: “I will have my hair cut tomorrow”. Everybody will understand that a hairdresser will do it for you.
He's having his hair cut

If we analyze the previous sentence, we find the structure have + object + past participle, or to put it more nicely: have something done.
Let's see another example: Your car is broken and you take it to the garage to...
a) repair it
b) have it repaired

If you chose the second option you are right, because I suppose you wanted a mechanic to repair your car and not do it yourself!
A mechanic at work

Instead of using the verb have, you can also use get if you want the sentence to sound more colloquial. Besides, get is preferred in the imperative form: “Go and get your hair cut, you look like a hippy”.

This structure can also be used in cases in which nobody is asked to do the action: “ He had all his money stolen while he was on holiday” (He didn't ask anybody to steal his money, it just happened), and even to say that something disagreable happened to someone: “We got our house flooded last night”.

The verbs have and get in this structure can be found in all the tenses.

You will find some more examples in this presentation:

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