"Have Something Done"

One of the ways we use the passive voice is to talk about an action without saying who did it.

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All Tenses

For example, we can see this person relaxing because someone else is taking care of his problems! How can we express this meaning with the passive voice?

A relaxed man

There is a special passive construction with have:

have + something (the object+ past participle

example: I have my business taken care of.
(Somebody is taking care of my business.)

another example: He has his dog walked.
(Somebody walks his dog.)

In this construction, like in all passive sentences, we need to use the past participle.

Remember that for regular verbs, this is the same as the simple past.

However, for irregular verbs, the past participle can be different!

Be sure to review them and use the correct form of the verb in passive constructions.

We can use this construction in the following cases:

  1. We make someone else do something for us, or we pay someone else to do something for us.

  2. Something negative happens and we have no control over it (something bad happens to us).

First, let's talk about when someone else does something that we ask of them.

  • Jeremy's car is in terrible condition! He is going to have his car fixed. He hopes it won't be too expensive!

This means that Jeremy will not do the work himself. He will pay a professional mechanic to do the work for him. He will have the work done to his car.

More examples:
  • The living room in Terry's new house is a terrible salmon pink color. She wants to have it painted before she moves in.

  • Lizzy can't talk right now. She's having her hair cut by the barber at the moment.

  • I need to go to the dentist today to have a tooth pulled. I hope it's very fast!

  • Will you have your party catered, or are you going to cook all the food yourself?

  • Emily had her dress sewn by a professional seamstress. She wanted it to look perfect for her special day!

We can use this construction in any of the English verb tenses. All we need to do is use the correct form of have depending on the verb tense we are using. The rest of the construction (object + past participle) remains exactly the same.

Now, let's look at the second meaning of have + object + past participle.

We can also use this construction when something negative happens to us when we don't expect it or want it.

  • The homeowner had all his money stolen! The police still haven't caught the mysterious robber.

The owner of the money did not want it to be stolen. This was a negative experience that this person suffered.

More examples:
  • The children are all upset because they had their toys taken away. They wanted to keep playing!

  • The event was supposed to be outside, but look at all this rain! The organizer, Ms. Huffington, is terribly upset because she's had her big event ruined.

  • Bruno is still not back at work. He says he's had his heart broken! It's so terrible that he's going through that divorce.

  • Phil doesn't want to come back to class. He had his feelings hurt last week, and he just isn't enthusiastic about the subject anymore.

Poor Phil! He suffered a negative experience that he did not expect! He certainly didn't want to be teased!

These constructions can seem confusing at first, but with practice, you'll feel comfortable with them. If you're still not sure how to use the passive voice, look at more examples. And keep on practicing!

Get Updates, Special Offers, and English Resources

Download your FREE GIFT (the first two chapters of
English Short Stories Book and Workbook)
as soon as you join!

English Short Stories

By submitting your email, you consent to receiving updates and newsletters from us and to the sharing of your personal data with third parties for the purposes of sending you communications. We will not spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, please see our privacy policy.