Click here to listen to my introduction to today’s activity on the passive causative.
Less than a year ago, I was almost stumped by a question about causative verbs. In Student Stumper 24, I explored what causative verbs are and the patterns they follow. I also offered two communication activities with causative verbs.
Students continue to keep me on my toes, and now I’ve been asked to address causative verbs in passive constructions. Hm. Yes, I admit, I did leave the passive causative out of my earlier discussion. Let me remedy that by tackling the topic today.
The student asked me if the following questions had the same meaning: What do you want done with this? / What do you want to do with this? I called attention to the difference between active and passive voice. In the second statement, the agent likely includes the person being addressed. “Want to do” is active. In contrast, “want done” is passive and the first statement implies that the agent will be someone other than the person being addressed. The second is an example of the passive causative. The passive causative expresses actions done by other people according to arrangements we make. Agreed?
Often we seem to limit our teaching of the passive causative to [get/ have + object + past participle + (agent)]. However, as the student’s question reminded me, there are other verbs. Want and need come to mind. I haven’t been able to identify others that follow the same pattern, so for now, I’d state the passive causative as being [causative verb (get/ have/ want/ need) + object + past participle + (agent)].
I suppose other patterns could be addressed such as causative verbs in the passive followed by the infinitive (e.g., He was allowed to leave early.) However, in the activity I’m sharing today, it makes sense to limit students’ focus to one pattern. This allows them greater opportunity to internalize the structure and contextualize its usage.
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