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Author Topic: Using the causative and factitive verbs  (Read 299 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: August 03, 2017, 09:40:38 PM »

When an awful act or serious mistake is made, particularly one that leads to a disastrous or tragic outcome, rare indeed is the soul that comes out in the open to take the blame for it. The usual response of the culpable is to ascribe the deed to somebody else or something else: “They had me scoop the money from the vault at gunpoint.” (By saying this, the perpetrator of an inside job is trying to extricate himself from the crime.) “An earthquake made the mountain unleash the deadly mudslide.” (Actually, loggers had ruthlessly stripped the mountain of every inch of its forest cover.) “The steel gate’s collapse caused the people to stampede.” (The crowd-control measures simply were too puny for so large a mass of humanity aiming to get rich quick.)


The English language has, in fact, evolved a special verb form to make people avoid acknowledging responsibility—if only for the moment—when caught in such situations. That verb form is the causative verb, which carries out an action that causes another action to happen. In the three sentences given as examples above, in particular, “have” is the causative verb in the first, causing the action “scoop” to happen; “make” is the causative verb in the second, causing the action “unleash” to happen; and “cause” is the causative verb in the third, causing the action “stampede” to happen. In each case, the crime or calamitous outcome is acknowledged but no one has accepted responsibility for it.


However, causative verbs are not only meant to make people avoid taking responsibility for things that have gone sour or disastrous. They are generally also used to indicate the sort of actions that people don’t do themselves but allow, ask, or force other people to do: “Emily’s supervisor permitted her to leave early today.” “Our landlady reminded us to pay our overdue rent.” “The thieves forced the tourists to hand over their jewelry.”

Note that in a causative construction, the subject doesn’t actually do the action of the operative verb but only causes the object to do that action. In the last example above, for instance, the subject is “the thieves” and the object is “the tourists,” and the causative verb “force” makes this object do the action of handing over the jewelry.

The other most commonly used causative verbs are “allow,” “assist,” “convince,” “employ,” “help,” “hire,” “let,” “motivate,” “remind,” “require,” and “urge.” When used in a sentence, practically all of these causative verbs are followed by an object (a noun or pronoun) that’s followed by an infinitive: “We allowed foreigners to invest in the local mining industry.” “The recruiter convinced me to leave for Jeddah at once.” “The desperate applicant employed deceit to get the plum job.”

The only notable exceptions to this pattern are the causative verbs “have,” “make,” and “let.” They are followed by a noun or pronoun serving as an object, but this time what follows the object is not an infinitive but the base form of the verb (meaning its infinitive form without the “to”): “I had my fellow investors sign the incorporation papers yesterday.” “They made him finish writing the book in only five weeks.” “We let the students pick the class schedules they want.”


Like the causative verb, another type of verb that exhibits peculiar behavior is the so-called factitive verb. While the usual transitive verb can take only one direct object, a factitive verb actually needs two of them. There are only a few of its kind, however, among them “choose,” “elect,” “judge,” “adjudge,” “make,” “name,” and “select.”

Here’s how a factitive verb works: “The prestigious finance magazine last night chose our company ‘Best at Consumer Goods’ in its annual poll.” Here, “choose” is the factitive verb, “our company” is the direct object, and “‘Best at Consumer Goods’” is the object complement—all three in tight, uninterrupted interlock.

This essay, 472nd in the series, first appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the February 20, 2006 issue of The Manila Times, © 2006 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2017, 09:59:16 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

melvinhate
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« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2017, 08:21:51 AM »

I understood that the causative verbs “have,” “make,” and “let”, as you pointed out, should be followed by the base form.

What about these sentences?

1. " “I had my fellow investors signed the incorporation papers yesterday.”

2. “They made him finished writing the book in only five weeks.”

3. “We let the students picked the class schedules they want.”

Thank you, Sir.

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Joe Carillo
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« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2017, 09:59:02 AM »

By definition, the base form of a verb is its infinitive form that has dropped the "to"; thus, the base form of, say, the transitive verb "sign" is "sign," which is the infinitive form "to sign" without the "to." Keep in mind that this base form of the verb, although it looks similar to its present tense form, is not the same as the present tense of that verb; in fact, this form takes no tense at all--just to highlight the distinction, we might say they are "tenseless."

This is why each of the three sentences you presented are grammatically flawed causative constructions. They are wrongly using the past tense of the verb (the action)--"signed," "finished," "picked"--that their respective causative verbs are causing the object of the sentence to do. Take a closer look at them:

1. “I had my fellow investors signed the incorporation papers yesterday.”
2. “They made him finished writing the book in only five weeks.”
3. “We let the students picked the class schedules they want.”

The correct construction of causative sentences always uses the base form of the verb (the action) that the object of the sentence is caused to do by the causative verb, as follows:

1. “I had my fellow investors sign the incorporation papers yesterday.”
2. “They made him finish writing the book in only five weeks.”
3. “We let the students pick the class schedules they want.”

Always keep in mind that in causative constructions, it is the causative verb that takes the tense, never the verb (the action) that the object is made to do. This, of course, is also very much in keeping with the rule that in English, it is the helping verb that takes the tense. Indeed, although they are "triggering" verbs in function, causative verbs are actually helping verbs in causative sentences like the ones you presented.

To show even more clearly how the causative mechanism works, take a look at, say, the future-tense constructions of the sentences you presented:

1. “I will have my fellow investors sign the incorporation papers yesterday.”
2. “They will make him finish writing the book in only five weeks.”
3. “We will let the students pick the class schedules they want.”

I trust that this has adequately clarified the structural and functional aspects of causative sentence constructions.
    
« Last Edit: August 05, 2017, 11:00:29 AM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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